Momo Nagano


Name Momo Nagano
Born September 16 1925
Died March 31 2010
Birth Location Los Angeles
Generational Identifier

Nisei

Momo Nagano (1925-2010) was an artist renowned for her weaving and other textile works. She was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1925, the second child and only daughter of Kiro and Ai Nagano who had immigrated from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. Nagano grew up with her parents and two brothers in the Seinan area of Los Angeles, leasing farm land and selling produce at the local wholesale market.

On the night of December 7, 1941, Nagano's father was taken into custody by the FBI, and for most of the war, he was imprisoned separately from the rest of the family. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in early 1942, she and her family were incarcerated at Manzanar, one of America's concentration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, where she graduated from the first class at Manzanar High School. While in camp, Nagano also participated in a camouflage net weaving project, which she later attributed as one of her first experiences with weaving technique. With the encouragement of her family and assistance from the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council, she enrolled at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts in 1944, where she majored in history, graduating in June of 1947.

Upon graduating from college, Nagano returned to Los Angeles where she had her first formal art training in ceramics at the California School of Art. While working at a Chinese import company, she met and married Sam Kwong, a young Chinese immigrant, and bore four children, whom she ended up raising as a single mother. After a hiatus of twelve years while raising her children, Nagano returned to pursue her studies in ceramics in the early 1960s at Los Angeles City College and Chouinard Art Institute. She converted the garage of her home in Silverlake into a makeshift studio, installed a kiln in her front yard, hosting all-night firing parties. She also joined a thriving artist community in Venice, California. [1]

In 1964, Nagano took a weaving class at the Barnsdall Art Center and began experimenting with different materials and traditional styles on Navajo upright and Mexican backstrap looms. She transformed her living room into a weaving studio, where she would work on pieces that would extend from floor to ceiling. Her large-scale weavings found their way into architectural projects for corporations such as YKK Zipper Co. as well as other corporate buildings and private collections in Southern California. Nagano also showed her work in numerous exhibitions and was a featured artist in several books. In addition to creating work, Nagano taught privately and at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. She worked in the Doizaki Gallery at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles Little Tokyo from 1982-95.

Nagano died on March 31, 2010, in Los Angeles, California.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Ito, Leslie A. "Japanese American Women and the Student Relocation Movement, 1942–1945." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 21.3 (2000): 1–24.

Momo Nagano Manzanar ID Card. Manzanar National Historic Site website.

Nagano, Momo. "An Artist Settles Into a Lifelong Pattern : Momo Nagano was attracted early to the Navajo art form of weaving. Eventually, it helped her appreciate her own ethnic heritage." August 14, 1994.

"Obituary for Momo Kwong." Kubota Nikkei Mortuary.

"Words, Weavings & Songs". 2002. Video. Directed by John Esaki and produced by the Watase Media Arts Center at the Japanese American National Museum. 34 minutes.

Footnotes

  1. "Obituary for Momo Kwong," Kubota Nikkei Mortuary, accessed on July 3, 2015 at http://www.kubotanikkeimortuary.com/obituaries/person/229~Momo~Kwong/