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Topaz Hospital

Hibi, Hisako [ bio ]

Topaz Hospital
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H: 16 in, W: 20 in

Topaz, Utah, June 1943


Gift of Ibuki Hibi Lee


Unframed, stretched canvas.

Image of an elderly man watching three people within a fenced area against a backdrop of barracks and mountains at Topaz concentration camp, Topaz, Utah. White-haired, bearded figure stands at left foreground in profile with hands clasped behind back. Trio sits on or stand with layered bottom half as they face away from the man in an open area enclosed by short poles and single strand of wire or rope. Barracks at midground in front of a building with an exceedingly tall smokestack that reaches top edge. Angular mountains in background.

Signed in caps, LR: Hisako Hibi / June 1943. Drawn on back: (partial charcoal sketch of figure)

This painting is slightly ambiguous in its composition and meaning. It is entitled "Topaz Hospital" yet there is nothing within the painting that makes explicit reference to such a building. Presumably the structure in the background is the hospital. Thus, despite the title of this painting what takes precedence are the figures in the foreground. A man stands stiffly at the left, clasping his hands behind him looking towards a huddled trio of figures seated at the right. They appear to be sitting on something within a space enclosed by a few short poles and wire or rope. Who these figures are meant to be and what they might be doing is unclear. The building in the distance seems to have a tall chimney. Behind that is the mountain range which frames many of Hibi's landscapes.

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