When Words Weren’t Enough: My Favorite Image of 2015
“When Words Weren’t Enough”
This is a tough post for me to write and I apologize in advance if it’s a bit choppy or short. This image still shakes my soul when I look at it, 7 months after I made it. I’m not going to explain the actual image but I believe a bit of context is in order to understand why I made this and why this image is by far my favorite image of 2015, possibly of my entire life. Topaz is a historical site of an internment camp from WWII, in Delta, Utah. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US quickly responded by imprisoning US CITIZENS of Japanese Ancestry to “Relocation Camps” throughout the US. Topaz was Utah’s 5th largest city at 8-10,000 people living in exactly 1 square mile.
Read this again.
The United States imprisoned US CITIZENS based on ethnicity.
“In any circumstance, anywhere and anytime, take up your brush and express what you face and what you think without wasting your time and energy complaining and crying out. I hold that statement as my aim, and as I have told my friends and students, the aim of artists.” – Chiura Obata (1946) Topaz Moon
The people of Topaz did something incredible while living under such incredible injustice, they created art. I visited the Topaz Museum in the afternoon of my visit and was the only person there. I was shown some smaller works on display by the staff before wandering the museum in silence. It didn’t take long for the visual impact of this place to move me to tears. Display after display of artwork in various styles lined the museum walls. Incredible beauty and soul radiated from each piece. I think you get the picture.
I would strongly encourage you to have a look here for much more information: Topaz Museum
After visiting the museum, I headed a few miles West to the abandoned site of Topaz. Concrete slabs remain but the barracks have been removed, leaving little evidence of the life that thrived in this desolate and barren wasteland. Dead trees dot the landscape that is largely filled with sagebrush and other drought tolerant plants. It is far from the most beautiful landscape you’ve ever laid eyes on. The bugs are thick after the recent heavy rains and only added to the feeling of disgust. I came out here to see something though. I was trying to get a glimpse into the mind and eye of the artists that lived in this place nearly 80 years prior, a glimpse into the beauty they saw, a glimpse into the soul that is still present here. I spent 2 hours, again all alone, wandering this square mile with my camera and swatting away bugs. I finally came upon a few trees that immediately caught my eye. Click.
Spending time to find beauty beyond the obvious is something I value and strive for as an artist. I was only here a brief moment and in no way can I come close to understanding what the people of Topaz felt while living here. But knowing they yearned for something else, beyond the physical, beyond reality and under such injustice inspires me to no end. Expression of thoughts and vision is only one part of the equation as an artist, the other part is sharing the expression.
This single photo I took is my representation of this.