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A cold day

Hibi, Hisako [ bio ]

A cold day
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H: 16 in, W: 20 in

Topaz, Utah, February 1944


Gift of Ibuki Hibi Lee


Unframed, stretched canvas.

Image of a person shoveling snow or coal in foreground next to piles of black rocks, probably coal, in front of barracks at Topaz concentration camp, Utah. Smoke rises from chimneys of snow covered barracks in background.

Signed, LR: Hisako Hibi / April 1944

Central to this painting is the figure in the foreground who seems to be shoveling snow or coal. Like most of the people in Hibi's camp paintings, the figure is anonymous and generally unidentifiable. The piles at the right and left are probably coal which was needed for the pot-bellied stoves. Every "apartment" had such a stove that served as the only source of heat during the severely cold winters at Topaz. Coal supplies were unpredictable and internees were responsible for gathering what coal they could from a central location to their living quarters. This figure is probably in the midst of collecting more coal for the barracks. Thick black smoke rises from the chimney in the background, referencing the burning coal in one of the pot-bellied stoves. Absent from this painting are many of the usual signifiers that this is a camp setting. The typical rows of barracks has been replaced by a small cluster of buildings. The barbed-wire fence and guard towers are also missing. It is a serene scene of a cold and snowy landscape.

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