Lasting Beauty: Miss Jamison and the Student Muralists (exhibition)


Exhibition featuring murals painted by Japanese American students at Rohwer High School under the direction of art teacher Mabel Rose Jamison Vogel. Lasting Beauty was one of eight exhibitions mounted in and around Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of the Life Interrupted project in 2004. It was later shown at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles in 2005.

Mabel Rose Jamison Vogel (1906–94) was an artist and art teacher for most of her life. Arriving at Rohwer in January 1943, she arrived to find her classroom devoid of desks, chairs, and art supplies. She nonetheless immersed herself in her work and became a favorite among inmate students. When the inmate Public Works Division requested murals for the new Rohwer auditorium, "Miss Jamison" (she married G.I. Herbert Vogel while she was at Rohwer) set her students up for the task. They decided to tell the story of their forced removal and incarceration through the mural project, with the students painting eight 4 x 16 foot murals on beaver board with tempera paint. The eight included "December 7th" by Mac Kinoshita, "Evacuation" by Teruyo Kishi, "Assembly Centers" by Mary Ihara, "To Rohwer" by Nobi Tanimoto, "The New Home" by Kik Toyofuku, "Community Life" by Michi Tanaka, "Center Occupations" by Motohiko Hori, and "Relocation" by Arthur Okusu. These were displayed in the auditorium, with four each on the east and west walls. But when the camp closed, the murals along with most of the rest of the camp were lost to history. Vogel remained at Rohwer until it closed. She continued to work as an art teacher for many years afterwards in New York and Cleveland.

In the 1980s, as interest in the Japanese American incarceration grew in the context of the Redress Movement, Vogel donated parts of her collection from Rohwer to the Smithsonian Institution and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). Among the material donated to JANM were mock ups of the murals, painted by the student artists on fabric. After mounting the America's Concentration Camps exhibition in 1994, JANM received a grant from the Arkansas-based Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation for restoration work on the mural paintings. The same foundation later served as the primary funder of the Life Interrupted Project, which included a conference, website, documentary film, and eight exhibitions in 2004.

Lasting Beauty featured three of the mural painting—the pieces by Michi Tanaka, Mas Kinoshita, and Nobie Tanimoto—displayed for the first time. These paintings were augmented by other pieces, including other works by Kinoshita, a Henry Sugimoto painting, and various wood carvings. The title of the exhibition comes from a line from Vogel's journal.[1] Opening at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock Fine Arts Building, Gallery I on September 23, 2004, it ran through October 15. Lasting Beauty later was displayed at JANM from February 6 to July 24, 2005.

Vogel willed the remainder of her Rohwer collection to her close friend Rosalie Santine Gould, who subsequently donated her materials to the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Material from the Mabel Rose Jamison Vogel/Rosalie Santine Gould Collection served as the basis for the 2011 exhibition, The Art of Living: Japanese American Creative Experience at Rohwer.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Life Interrupted: The Japanese American Experience in World War II Arkansas. http://www.janm.org/events/2004/lifeinterrupted/exhibitions/.

Lasting Beauty: Miss Jamison and the Student Muralists. Past Exhibitions, Japanese American National Museum. http://www.janm.org/exhibits/lasting/.

"Returning Beauty: Student Murals Back in Arkansas." Arkansas Times, Oct. 7, 2004, http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/returning-beauty/Content?oid=949442.

Ziegler, Jan Fielder. "Listening to 'Miss Jamison': Lessons from the Schoolhouse at a Japanese Internment Camp, Rohwer Relocation Center." Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies 33.2 (Aug. 2002): 137–46.

---. "Mabel Rose Jamison (Jamie) Vogel (1906–1994)." The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=31.

---. The Schooling of Japanese American Children at Relocation Centers during World War II: Miss Mabel Jamison and Her Teaching of Art at Rohwer, Arkansas. Studies in American History Vol. 57. Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2005.

Footnotes

  1. She wrote, "A good painting is a thing of lasting beauty. Long after the poster paint has peeled off the beaver boards, these murals, painted by these eight high school students will be remembered. For the story and history of the evacuation are not likely to be forgotten soon." Cited in Jan Fielder Ziegler, "Listening to 'Miss Jamison': Lessons from the Schoolhouse at a Japanese Internment Camp, Rohwer Relocation Center," Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies 33.2 (Aug. 2002), 143.