Now in its third year, the BCA Virtual Art Exhibit is proving once again that there’s a wealth of artistic talent throughout the BCA.
The BCA Virtual Art Exhibit debuted online on Sept. 23 and is available on the BCA’s website at: bit.ly/46hUezV
“Returning and new artists have provided their latest expressions of their hearts and hands,” said Rev. Joshin Dennis Fujimoto, an artist himself who came up with the idea for a BCA-wide exhibit. Rev. Fujimoto, who now leads the BCA Art Committee, is Resident Minister of the Buddhist Temple of Alameda and Supervising Minister for Enmanji Buddhist Temple in Sebastopol, California.
Koichi Mizushima, who has diligently worked with Rev. Fujimoto from the onset of the exhibit, praised this year’s art entries.
“I am honored to be a part of this amazing project,” said Mizushima, who is the BCA’s Center for Buddhist Education (CBE) Youth Coordinator. “This collection of art from Sangha members throughout the BCA is a beautiful representation of everyone's talent, emotion and work.”
In all, there were 87 entries and they spanned the spectrum of art media: drawings, paintings, sumi-e (Japanese ink paintings), watercolors, pastels, Japanese calligraphy, photography, wood carving, ikebana, stained glass, sculptures, and even a video.
What’s always fascinating are the artists’ descriptions that are submitted with the artwork.
Valerie Pham of the Buddhist Temple of Alameda is a high school student at Notre Dame High School in Alameda. Her entry, "Kitchen Chaos" was chosen to represent California’s 12th Congressional District in the annual Congressional Institute for Art Competition and is on display at the U.S. Capitol for one year.
The painting depicts her family's Buddhist altar stand in the hectic chaos of a busy daily kitchen scene. It shows us the place of quiet grounding that spiritual practice provides in our fast-paced lives.
"I painted my kitchen altar because I wanted to challenge typical depictions of Buddhism in popular media,” Pham said. “Oftentimes, Buddhism is depicted in a very orientalist and exoticized lens, which not only ignores the ways Buddhism is practiced by ordinary people but allows Buddhist practices to be twisted to fulfill corrupt desires. My painting is not a depiction of Buddhism one would typically see in America. I wanted to show Buddhism from an ordinary lens, without the exoticized imagery or narrow-minded view."
Akemi Osajima of the Orange County Buddhist Church submitted a striking painting of herself with the images of her grandparents hovering above her.
“I painted this piece as a tribute to my ancestors and my Japanese and JA culture,” Osajima wrote. “The vision came during a meditation, where I felt my grandparents (who died when I was little) watching over me. The background of the piece is based on a watercolor painting my great-grandfather did of our family’s homeland in Japan, and inside the bubble is the World War II concentration camps, where my family (including father) was imprisoned for three years.
“Painting this piece was an incredible experience, not only because I felt deeply connected to my grandparents for the first time, but also because this was the first piece that integrates my heritage and culture and family into my art,” Osajima continued. “It's the most meaningful work I've done so far, and continues to give me so much life as I sit in front of it every day (with the photo it was based on) to request support and wisdom from my inner child, my higher self, and my spirit guides.”
Berkeley Buddhist Temple’s Kai Fujioka did a colorful landscape of the Drum Mountains, primarily using palette knives to create an almost abstract rendering. The knife strokes' uneven patterns give high contrast to the peaks and valleys of the natural landscape.
Fujioka chose the Drum Mountains in west Utah because they “were visible from the barbed wire fences of the World War II incarceration camp (Topaz) that housed 11,000 American citizens, many from the San Francisco Bay Area.” He dedicated the painting to the Japanese American internees and the harsh yet beautiful landscapes they endured for years.
Jeanie Kashima of Buddhist Temple of San Diego submitted three images of her notable “Topaz Collages” that illustrate the story of her Takaki family, who were incarcerated at the Topaz mass detention camp during World War II. She was the first baby born at Topaz and was featured in the March 2023 issue of the Wheel of Dharma.
Elaine Tsumura of the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple’s “Calm Before the Storm” is a mixed-media collage that illustrates the story of her maternal grandparents, Kyoichi and Rise Yoshida. Last year, Tsumura entered a stark watercolor of Kyoichi Yoshida next to his Ford Model T in 1919, and soon after, died in a farming accident.
“This dark chapter in the life of many Japanese American citizens needs to be recorded and remembered,” Tsumura said. “Redress and apology came in the 1990s, but by that time my grandmother had already passed away at the age of 80.”
Apart from the mass detention of Japanese Americans, several other themes and subjects were depicted, ranging from landscapes, beach scenes, portraits of cats, dogs, celebrities, and self-portraits.
BJ Soriano, the well-known Hawaiian Shin Buddhist musician and composer, submitted a photo of her home in Hawaii and an original song composition of “Wherever You Are”:
No matter where you are
It’s still a place
Home is where you make it
Home is what you make it
Hailey La Monte of the San Mateo Buddhist Temple created a ceramic puzzle box. “The pattern on the border, inspired by the Seigaiha wave pattern, was made with a single ceramic stamp I created repeated over and over,” La Monte said.
Jimothi Rosaria DiFonzo of Reading, Pennsylvania, did a double knit myogyo so the front and back are opposite colors. “This project got me through hard times, but my fingers said the Nembutsu with every stitch,” DiFonzo wrote.
Randy Kato of the Buddhist Temple of Alameda created a video with the preface:
“‘Here Comes the Sun’ (the Beatles classic by George Harrison) is the COVID discharge song for many hospitals – when it’s played, it means someone is going home … alive. The song’s message of hope amid difficult realities makes it a fitting anthem for us to emerge from the darkness. This is for New York City.”
Kato is a Cyr wheel artist athlete, performer, and coach. The Cyr wheel is a single large ring made of aluminum or steel. He has performed for Big Apple Circus, The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Omnium Circus, The Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival, NBC News, the CBS Morning Show, the FOX Morning Show, and more.
In the video, Kato spins around with the Cyr wheel along the New York City waterfront and the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, all while various versions of “Here Come the Sun” play.
There were several artists who were repeat participants, including Maho Suzuki Garner of the Oregon Buddhist Temple (OBT). Last year, Garner had a watercolor from the OBT’s Obon, and this year, she chose the same theme – Obon at the OBT. Garner wrote: “Dancing to ‘Mottainai’ at Obon. Everyone starts laughing even if you put the other foot in front.”
And Garner’s daughter, Mayu, entered two pieces herself — of the Buddha and a cat.
Other exceptional repeat artists included Madame Suiyo Fujimoto of the Buddhist Church of Oakland. Madame Fujimoto has taught the Ohara School of Ikebana Flower Arranging 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 years. She is the wife of the late Rev. Hogen Fujimoto.
In addition, two of Madame Fujimoto’s students, Mitsuko Suiko Maruyama of Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church and Yoshiko Suinyo Gilli of the Buddhist Temple of Alameda, submitted photos of arrangements this year. Both Maruyama and Gilli teach ikebana flower arranging.
“Art is a way to convey thought, emotion and ideas without words,” Mizushima said. “Art is without definition or boundaries. What a beautiful way for all of us to connect and share. Thank you all for sharing your art, and thank you to all of the visitors who came to enjoy this exhibit.”