The first BCA Art Exhibit, which attracted more than 90 entries throughout the BCA temples and churches and Hawaii, has proven to be so popular that it’s been extended past its original Ohigan observance in September and will remain up on the BCA website for now.
CBE Youth Coordinator Koichi Mizushima said the art exhibit was originally set to run only from Sept. 19-26, but the decision was made the keep the website up after the overwhelming positive response from Sangha members and others who viewed the artwork.
Mizushima collaborated on the art exhibit with Rev. Joshin Dennis Fujimoto — a talented artist who works in a variety of art media — of the Buddhist Temple of Alameda and the Enmanji Buddhist Temple in Sebastopol.
Mizushima credited Rev. Fujimoto as the inspiration for the first BCA Art Exhibit. Mizushima said the exhibit was born “from an idea to showcase all of the amazing art created by our Sangha community.”
Rev. Fujimoto, in the opening statement about the BCA Art Exhibit, stated:
“Art is not entertainment. Art is expression and communication. We are opened to a world beyond words. Art gives voice to body and heart. It is a voice that is usually asked or relegated to defer to the brain. We are allowed to share in intimate dialogue and to glimpse connection to the infinite. Intimate yet infinite is the realm of the Nembutsu. We are provided access to expressions of sacred space and connected spirit. It is our hope that you can come to appreciate these vibrant expressions of self.”
The exhibit runs the entire gamut of media — from photographs to art pieces to watercolors, origami, collages, drawings, calligraphy, ikebana — and bridges time and entire generations. There are several art pieces from the internment period of World War II — in which internees used their talents to fashion beautiful pieces of art out of whatever they could get in the camps.
The website allows users to click on a specific art piece and see the artist, temple or church they belong to, and, in many instances, read the artist’s explanation of their work.
For example, in exhibit No. 002a-c, Zora Uyeda-Hale, an Albany High School student and member of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, wrote:
“I created ‘You Are Not Alone’ to represent the feelings of loss, grief and isolation that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has forced me to confront one of my biggest fears: the fear of being alone. This piece is extremely personal to me, but also purposefully universal …. I hope this piece will challenge you to acknowledge and process your pain, while also reassuring you that you will never be completely alone.”
In exhibit No. 28, Lisa Tanahashi of the Pasadena Buddhist Temple wrote in her photo of origami: “These lilies and kaki were folded by my late mom (Alice Tanahashi, 1925-2020, age 95) and me. Over 12 months, we folded over 300 of the lilies to give away to birthday celebrants each month at the Villa Gardens retirement community, which has been our home for the past 4 years. We really enjoyed folding together and teaching others to fold for fun as well.”
In No. 30, Samantha Nicole Willams of the Seabrook Buddhist Temple wrote: “I drew this colored pencil and ink piece for the Seabrook Buddhist Temple Bon Odori in the summer of 2019, when I was 13 years old.”
In Nos. 44a-c, Tessa Asato of White River Buddhist Temple wrote: "My art is self-reflective, fictional, and a fusion of both. I use pen and ink on paper, and typically create silly cartoon versions of myself.
“In the first drawing, there are three generations of my family, folding origami cranes. My grandpa, Roger Kawasaki, my mom, Lillian Asato, and myself! My grandpa and mom have crossed to the other shore, but whenever I fold or see origami cranes, I always think of them.”
In No. 62, Tara Tamaribuchi of the Seattle Betsuin wrote of the first of her three entries called the “Camouflage Net Project” (2017) at the Seattle Center: “It was a response to the Muslim Ban and seeing photos Dorothea Lange took of Nisei camouflage net workers in Manzanar. I was astonished to learn that some camp labor was in this handiwork of weaving. I wanted to (reweave) the labor and send pride of heritage back to my family and community, and so I made this camouflage net with strips from yukata and kimono bolts, rather than the dusty hemp strips. As camouflage protects people and objects by blending them in with their surroundings, I was interested in the idea of camouflage as a way to see people as interconnected with each other.”
In No. 68, Maho Garner of the Oregon Buddhist Temple wrote: “Not often noticed, this little creature holds the statue of Amida Buddha in the onaijin of Oregon Buddhist Temple. The creature reminds me of patience and perseverance.”
The artists themselves are fascinating in their own right, with their backgrounds and accomplishments.
Jim Mizuta of the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple in Ontario, Oregon, submitted four entries (No. 093a-b, 094a-b) He is 95, an onion farmer, a World War II veteran, and judo instructor and founding member of the Ore-Ida Judo Club in Ontario, Oregon. He does watercolor paintings, hanging in business offices throughout his hometown of Vale, Oregon, and in homes of dear friends, according to Rev. Fujimoto who described Mizuta as “a true pillar of the community and a wonderful example of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism (a modern-day Myokonin).”
Another artist of note is Madame Suiyo Fujimoto (Nos. 033a-b, 035) of the Buddhist Church of Oakland, who has taught the Ohara School of Ikebana Flower Arrangement for more than 60 years.
Madame Fujimoto has the extremely rare title of Grand Master, holds both Tokudo and Kyoshi ordination from Nishi Hongwanji and has taught altar flower arrangements for the BCA to ministerial aspirants for several years. She is the wife of the late Rev. Hogen Fujimoto.
Two of Madame Fujimoto’s students submitted arrangements, Suiko Maruyama of Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church (Nos. 036a-b) and the late Suisho Yasuhiro, also of SACBC (No. 034).
Mizushima said: “I wanted to thank all of the artists for the heartfelt submissions, and I hope to continue this tradition in the years to come. Thank you all for supporting and sharing this amazing art exhibit.”
To view the entire BCA Art Exhibit, go to: https://www.buddhistchurchesofamerica.org/bca-art-exhibit