Saturday, September 18, 2010

the TAG project

Last year when I went to Haystack I met a remarkable artist named Wendy Maruyama.
She is "an artist and educator from San Diego, California and have been making furniture/art since 1970. My work is often inspired by extended residencies and visits to various countries such as France, England, Japan, Korea and China."
me (disheveled) and Wendy one late night in the Haystack metals studio (her husband Bill is just over my shoulder)

Wendy was the instructor for the wood studio while I was a student in the metals studio. Our paths crossed through her husband, Bill, who -as a non-artist- decided to participate in the metals class while Wendy was teaching in the wood studio. Bill's workbench was directly behind mine, so I was there when Wendy would come visit the space- (And her personality just lit up the room).

I didn't know much about her work until I saw her presentation a few nights in to the session. Now, I've been to hundreds of visiting artists lectures over the years, but never one that moved me so deeply.
Her furniture is beautifully crafted, and also filled with wit and humor- sometimes with embedded videos and imagery.
(you should check out her work online at )

The piece that moved me to tears was her current project , the Tag project (executive order 9066) .
where she has been working on "making all 120,000 tags, for all the Japanese Americans who were sent to all the camps." Wendy states "I feel that the sheer numbers and the scale of these tags will convey to all who view this that the internment was a massive project that was to affect an entire culture of people and their future generations."

Even as a whitebread caucasian girl the the horrors of WW2 has it's fingers in my family history. My husband's father was imprisoned at Mathausen (Austria) at the end of the war- he was only in the camp for 5 months, but left deathly ill, with his health never to recover. On the other side of the world my Brother in law's family was a Japanese American family living in the Columbia river gorge in Oregon. The son (father of my brother in law) was in active service in the US army (in Italy) and the family was forced to leave their family farm to live in a "camp" in California.

I know that somewhere in the bunch of tags are the names of my niece's grandparents and great grandparents. People who did nothing against our country, in fact, were producing fresh delicious healthy fruit. They worked an honest living but were punished for their ethnicity.
(I see this prejudice is echoed today in the way my home state of Arizona, as we expel our migrant (usually Mexican) farm workers...just saying...)

This weekend I am going to spend a few hours brewing coffee and dipping paper tags into the brew in order to age them to appear historic. I imagine a bottle of wine will be uncorked. I'm hoping a few of my friends will come to help. And Wendy, I can't wait to see the result of this tremendous project...

xoxo- M

1 comment:

Nancy Lee said...

Maureen, this is a wonderful project. I look forward to seeing it completed! It will be massive. I was pleased to click on the link you provided and saw that the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego has several volunteers helping Wendy with this project, and that the project has received a grant.

Your post has gotten me curious as to the outcome, and to follow the progress that Wendy and her group will make.

It's interesting for me to note that my mother was a pigtailed four year old, playing with puppies, when the Japanese Americans began to be rounded up. About the age of one of the little boys in this photo.

Thanks for sharing this article. It's good that recognition for this injustice will be brought forth through the use of this compelling project.

Nancy Lee


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