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Prayer

Hibi, Hisako [ bio ]

Prayer
Enlarge Image (87.8KB)

painting
H: 20 in, W: 24 in
oil
canvas

Topaz, Utah, May 1944

(96.601.26)

Gift of Ibuki Hibi Lee

Description

Unframed, stretched canvas.

Image in hues of gray, brown and green of two people, a woman and girl, standing and praying in a green field with a mountain and guard tower in the background at Topaz concentration camp, Utah. The figures stand in profile with hands held in prayer facing distant mountains. Rabbit sits in BLC. Barbed wire fence spans the image at midground, transitioning from green field to darker hued mountains in distance. Watchtower midground right. Clouds above mountains.

Inscription
Signed, LL: Hisako Hibi / May 1944 ; Back: 'a evening prayer' a far for away relatives friends, the young men in the battle ground front

History
The desert location of the Topaz concentration camp meant that the landscape had little vegetation. Among the only kinds of plants that the alkaline soil could sustain was greasewood, a small gray shrub. In this painting Hisako Hibi portrays a woman and a girl standing in a green field. It appears rather lush in comparison to the written descriptions of Topaz. Clearly it is meant to be a scene within camp because of the barbed wire fence discernible in the distance. Also visible is a small red square on the fence. Although it is too far for the viewer to read the sign, we know from historical documentation that it is a warning to internees to stay away from the edge of the perimeter. Although diminished in size, the inclusion of the sign in the painting is significant. At Topaz in particular, the barbed wire fence became a point of tension when one resident was shot and killed for walking too close to the fence. Hibi paints this woman and girl facing the mountain range, looking beyond the fence and sign. In the inscription on the painting Hibi writes that the prayer was for "relatives, friends, the young men in the battle ground front." Thus, despite the subtlety of the painting and the lush field, the sentiment behind this work is a sober one.

All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in this collection must be submitted to the Collections Management & Access Unit at the Japanese American National Museum (collections@janm.org).

 

 

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