|Written by Alice Murata|
|Monday, 13 October 2008 18:22|
Tajiri is a well known name to many Japanese Americans in Chicago. Shinkichi is the fifth of seven children born to Ryukichi and Fuyo Tajiri. His oldest brother, Larry, was editor of the Pacific Citizen, the bi-monthly newspaper of the Japanese American Citizens League, during World War II. The second son died at age three in an influenza epidemic. The third son, Vincent, was part of the 442nd RCT and is best known as picture editor and director of photography of Playboy Magazine from 1954 to 1971. He edited "Through Innocent Eyes," a collection of works by Nisei. His sister, Yoshiko, edited the Tokyo area edition of the Stars and Stripes as well as other magazines. James was a career military officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He commanded Airborne Intelligence units in Vietnam and Okinawa.
Grew up in San Diego, Shinkichi always liked art. He showed his works to Ruth Hall, who introduced him to Donal Hord. Because Shinkichi couldn’t afford sculpturing lessons, he was grateful to Hord for permitting him to care for his garden in exchange for lessons. This was the beginning of sculpturing for him. The lessons ended in 1942 when his family was evacuated to Poston Concentration Camp in Arizona.
At the end of military service, Shinkichi came to Chicago to be with his mother and family. He worked at Matsumoto’s Art Shop and on the GI Bill attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which he considers to be the best of the four art schools he attended. He studied art history, painting, and design. From there, he went to Paris to escape racism suffered in the U.S. and to study art with cubist sculptor, Ossip Zadkins, whom he left to have freedom to develop in his own art style.
The Gaka Art Club in 1947. The club met in Shinjiki Tajiri's basement studio
In 1951, Shinkichi married Denise Martin and in 1956 they were divorced. Shinkichi went through lean years but earned international recognition for his art. He received a prize for the best German wallpaper design in 1953 and came to the attention of COBRA, an art group of revolutionary experimental and protestors from Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam. The Dutch group liked his works and labeled him an abstract surrealist. Shinkichi liked to experiment with art and extend himself. He considers his work the result of his life circumstances and reflects what he is attempting to solve at the moment.
Shinkichi Tajiri repainting antiques at Matsumoto Art Shop, 14 N. Michigan Ave. 1947
A second marriage to Ferdi Jansen and their children, Glotta Fuyo born in 1957 and Ryu Vinci born in 1959 changed Shinkichi. Fatherhood shifted his philosophy of life from a death orientation towards life and regeneration.
After his second wife died in an auto accident, Shinkichi changed his lifestyle to accommodate his two daughters. He invited Suzanne van der Capellen to join his family and married her in 1975. Now he is a proud grandparent.
Shinkichi Tajiri's 2005 holiday greetings shows him with his latest project, one of the four sentinels guarding a bridge.
Always open to new ideas, Shinkichi recently moved to using computer imaging in his art works. He is a terrific role model for new artists and wants to encourage Asian Americans to do art. To share what he had accomplished, Shinkichi donated books and materials to Japanese American organizations. The Chicago Japanese American Historical Society (CJAHS) was the recipient of ten books, posters, and other valuable materials. We remain very grateful. Shinkichi’s childhood friend, Noriko Korimita, of Champaign, Illinois, donated many of her artist friend's materials to the Hanako and Teruo Murata Book Collection at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. You are encouraged to read more about this living legend, Shinkichi Tajiri, the fabulous sculptor at http://www.shinkichi-tajiri.com.
Alice Murata is a professor in the Department of Counselor Education at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and co-founder of the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society.
Published in February of 2006
This article is featured on the Community forum section of the Discover Nikkei Website: http://www.discovernikkei.org/forum/en/node/1335