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Utah Museum of Fine Arts announces Pictures of Belonging: Miki Hayakawa, Hisako Hibi, and Mine Okubo

Pictures of Belonging: Miki Hayakawa, Hisako Hibi, and Miné Okubo opens February 24, 2024, at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) on the University of Utah campus. The exhibition features over 100 paintings and works on paper by three trailblazing women of Japanese descent who worked prolifically from pre-World War II through the mid-20th Century.

Hayakawa, Hibi, and Okubo were critically acclaimed artists with long and productive careers. Pictures of Belonging follows the artists’ prewar, wartime, and postwar art practices, sharing an expanded view of the “American experience” by women who used artmaking to take up space, make their presence and existence visible, and assert their belonging. Many of the artworks are on view to the public for the first time. A selection of historical photographs of the artists supplements the exhibition.

Gretchen Dietrich, the Marcia and John Price Executive Director of the UMFA, stated, “We are absolutely delighted to bring the work of these three phenomenal artists to Utah, and I know our visitors will fall in love with these artists and their amazing work.”

Hibi and Okubo were incarcerated at the Central Utah Relocation Center (known as Topaz) near Delta, Utah, from 1942 until 1944/45. Their depictions of life in Topaz during this time add special significance to the exhibition’s presentation at the UMFA, the first venue to host Pictures of Belonging on its national tour. Pictures of Belonging curator, Dr. ShiPu Wang of the University of California, Merced, and commissioner of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, shared his hope for the presentation at the UMFA, “By bringing some of the artworks created at Topaz by two incarcerated artists back to Utah, Pictures of Belonging reminds the public to acknowledge and remember the important history lesson of the Japanese American incarceration and displacement during World War II.”

Wartime incarceration is a relatively small, but deeply important part of the artists’ stories. The exhibition provides a broad overview of the artists’ long careers. “By presenting a fuller view of the artists’ oeuvres that span eight decades,” Wang states, “the exhibition broadens the existing focus on wartime trauma and directs our attention deeper into the trailblazing, diverse, and resilient lives and careers of three Japanese American women.” He continues, “Their art, their identities, and their places in American art history are not defined by wartime injustice, but are about much, much more… the UMFA is the perfect place to initiate broader conversations about not only WWII Japanese American experience, but also the less studied history of raicoethnic minority and women artists in 20th-century American art.”

Pictures of Belonging marks the second time the UMFA will display an exhibition curated by Wang. Chiura Obata: An American Modern opened at the Museum in 2018. This retrospective of Obata’s work marked the beginning of a relationship with Obata’s family through connections initiated by Wang, which led to the UMFA collecting 35 works from the artist’s estate in 2021.

The traveling version of Pictures of Belonging is curated by Dr. ShiPu Wang and is organized by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California. The exhibition is made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts. After its time at the UMFA the exhibition travels to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Monterey Art Museum in California, before concluding its travels at the Japanese American National Museum in late 2026.

Learn about events related to the exhibition, like a March 13, 2024 curator talk, on the UMFA’s website here:

Images from left to right: Hisako Hibi, Study for a Self-Portrait, ca. 1944. Japanese American National Museum 99.63.1; Miki Hayakawa, Untitled (Woman with Blue Hair), ca. 1930s. Oil on canvas, 18 x 19.25 in. Collection of Richard Sakai; Miné Okubo, Portrait Study, ca. 1937. Tempera on panel, 23.5 x 19.5 in. SAAM