Yayoi Ailene Shibata

Name Yayoi Ailene Shibata
Born March 12 1931
Birth Location Mt. Eden, California
Generational Identifier


Abstract artist Yayoi Ailene Shibata was born on March 12, 1931, in Mt. Eden, California, to immigrant parents Zenjuro and Koyuri Shibata, who ran Mt. Eden Nursery Co. in Hayward, California, which grew roses as its main crop. She was one of five children, who were all expected to help with the farm. Despite the long hours invested into their business, her mother wrote articles and poetry that were published in local Japanese newspapers, which would be an inspiration to Shibata, who aspired to become an artist. [1]

In 1942, when Shibata was only eleven years old, she and her family were forced to abandon their home and nursery in the San Francisco Bay Area to a community outside of the military zones forbidden to the Japanese. But when the military exclusion zone was expanded, they were forced to enter the Tule Lake camp in Northern California. The family's second son, Yoshito, had joined the U.S. Army before war was declared and had not been with the family when they left the nursery. In Tule Lake, the oldest son, twenty-six-year-old Yoshimi, worked first as a high school teacher, then concurrently as the assistant general manager of the Tule Lake Business Enterprise Association (the camp cooperative), the secretary of the city council, and the director of the planning board. When the Shibata family returned to their farm in 1945, they found their home, greenhouse and Japanese gardens vandalized, but eventually recovered them and slowly revived the business. Shibata graduated from high school and completed two years at the University of California Berkeley, where she received an associate of arts degree.

In 1952, she enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, studying painting with William Brice, Gordon Nunes, and Dorothy Brown. She graduated in 1954 with a B.A. in fine arts with a focus on painting. She later received her M.A. in fine arts from UCLA for ceramics and subsequently taught at the university for one year. In 1960, she moved to Tokyo, where she lived and painted for two years.

From the 1950s to the present, she has continued painting in oil and acrylics, as well as making collages. In 1992, she mounted an exhibition at the Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro, California entitled By Executive Order which reflected her World War II incarceration experience. Her solo exhibitions have also included shows at California State University Hayward (1960), Paul Rivas Gallery, Los Angeles (1960), the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Los Angeles (1991), and Presidio of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, sponsored by the National Japanese American Historical Society (1997). Her work has also been included in group exhibitions such as the Annual Nika Kai Art Exhibit , Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tokyo (1957), and the San Francisco Art Association, San Francisco Museum of Art (1959). In 1999, she was commissioned to do work at the Continental Grand Plaza in El Segundo, California.

She lives and works in Redondo Beach, California.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Yayoi Ailene Shibata artist website https://angelsgateart.org/artist/yayoi-ailene-shibata-3/ "About Us." Mt. Eden Floral Company website.

Chang, Gordon H., Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors. Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 . Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008.


  1. Gordon H. Chang, Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors, Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008), 416; "About Us," Mt. Eden Floral Company website, accessed on May 19, 2015 at http://www.mteden.com/about_us.aspx .

Last updated Jan. 16, 2024, 2:10 a.m..