Matthew is Selected as Densho’s 2022 Artist-in-Residence

June 7, 2022

Matthew Okazaki has been selected as Densho’s Artist-in-Residence this year. For his project, he will use photographs and records found in the Densho archives to study the World War II American concentration camps through a series of scale models. In addition to his role as APB principal, Matt has an interdisciplinary art practice that explores themes of longing and belonging. Here is an excerpt from his proposal:

“My grandfather spent his youth in the American concentration camps of World War II. They stayed in horse stables and converted army barracks. He says that there was so much dust. In the middle of the war, in the middle of the desert, surrounded by barbed wire fences and outposts and armed guards, it was a place-between, where the conflict of identity was made manifest. A placeless place for those inexplicably extracted from their former lives, from their former selves. Barren architectures in barren landscapes, these “homes” were hardly that — blank walls, a stove, a lone light bulb — devoid of any semblance and sense of a domesticity. And yet, despite the incredible trauma, looking back my grandfather told me he sometimes took comfort there in the desert. Perhaps much of this can be attributed to the resilience of the people imprisoned, who quickly began making furniture, toys, curtains, and keepsakes from scrap lumber and found objects. They began gardening in the yards, transforming areas into impossibly lush oases in these desolate regions. Here, by transforming the sterility of the desert and the architecture into makeshift homes, an act of quiet rebellion had taken place. A form of perseverance, of gaman, not to be viewed as reactive, but as a radically projective act. For people like my grandfather, like it or not this was home, and so a home it would become.”