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Hibi, Hisako [ bio ]

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H: 22 in, W: 26 in

Topaz, Utah, September 1942


Gift of Ibuki Hibi Lee


Red and brown painting with a mountain and barracks in the background. In the foreground is a water tower and rows of workers walking down a road.

Signed in caps, LR: Hisako Hibi / Sept 1942 ; BACK: When we were sent there many barracks were still under construction. The workers rigidly marched in the morning and likewise marched out in the evening.

Only two paintings appear to have been made by Hisako Hibi during the first few months at the Topaz concentration camp. This painting and "Topaz, Utah" were done in the fall of 1942 while the next painting completed by Hibi was not until March of the following year. Thus, they serve as important works representing her initial period at Topaz. The mountain range in the background becomes an important framing motif in many of Hibi's later landscapes and outdoor camp scenes. Here it appears against the backdrop of a bright red and orange sky. When the internees began being transported from Tanforan to Topaz many of the makeshift quarters were still being constructed by US army soldiers. Internees were also made to help in the construction of buildings and even the barbed wire fence which surrounded the camp. In this painting Hibi appears to focus on the daily routine of the soldiers, and not the internees, who worked on the construction of Topaz. In particular, the focus is on the regimented manner in which the soldiers marched into camp every morning. An adult and child stand to the side observing the men in their symmetrical formation and appearance. The figures are diminished in size in relation to the camp grounds and mountain range, emphasizing the landscape and conditions of camp. The barracks and water tower also serve as markers in locating this painting as a camp scene.

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