Friday, June 14, 2013

Cover art for Voices from the Canefields: Folksongs from Immigrant Workers in Hawaii

I am very honored to have my 2010 "Kasuri" painting from my Sugar series gracing the cover of this forthcoming book by Franklin Odo. Place your orders now. The book will be coming out in August 2013:

“Historian Franklin Odo has parlayed Harry Minoru Urata’s decades of song-hunting into a spectacular, engaging, and eye-opening view of a seminal Japanese American regional tradition.”—Daniel Sheehy, Curator and Director, Smithsonian Folkways

“This is an outstanding contribution to the story of pioneer Issei and their lives and labor on the plantations of Hawai’i based on the poetic lyrics of their work songs. Franklin Odo’s masterful study of the lyrics of holehole bushi songs uncovers the deepest emotions of the Issei women and men as they labored and sang about their daily life on the plantations of Hawai’i.”—Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, George & Sakaye Aratani Professor and Endowed Chair, Asian American Studies, UCLA

“Odo rescues pungent voices of nameless Japanese immigrants from historical obscurity. His analysis of emotion-filled folk songs offers a rare glimpse into the culture of Hawai`i's plantation work accentuated by the daily struggle with racism, sexism, class exploitation, homesickness, and disrupted family life. This is prodigious scholarship!”—Eiichiro Azuma, Alan Charles Kors Term Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Folk songs are short stories from the souls of common people. Some, like Mexican corridos or Scottish ballads, reworked in the Appalachias, are stories of tragic or heroic episodes. Others, like the African American blues, reach from a difficult present back into slavery and forward into a troubled future. Japanese workers in Hawaii's plantations created their own versions, in form more akin to their traditional tanka or haiku poetry. These holehole bushi describe the experiences of one particular group caught in the global movements of capital, empire, and labor during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Voices from the Canefields author Franklin Odo situates over two hundred of these songs, in translation, in a hitherto largely unexplored historical context.

Japanese laborers quickly comprised the majority of Hawaiian sugar plantation workers after their large-scale importation as contract workers in 1885. Their folk songs provide good examples of the intersection between local work/life and the global connection which the workers clearly perceived after arriving. While many are songs of lamentation, others reflect a rapid adaptation to a new society in which other ethnic groups were arranged in untidy hierarchical order - the origins of a unique multicultural social order dominated by an oligarchy of white planters. Odo also recognizes the influence of the immigrants' rapidly modernizing homeland societies through his exploration of the "cultural baggage" brought by immigrants and some of their dangerous notions of cultural superiority. Japanese immigrants were thus simultaneously the targets of intense racial and class vitriol even as they took comfort in the expanding Japanese empire.

Engagingly written and drawing on a multitude of sources including family histories, newspapers, oral histories, the expressed perspectives of women in this immigrant society, and accounts from the prolific Japanese language press into the narrative, Voices from the Canefields will speak not only to scholars of ethnomusicology, migration history, and ethnic/racial movements, but also to a general audience of Japanese Americans seeking connections to their cultural past and the experiences of their most recently past generations.

Franklin Odo was founding director of the Smithsonian Institution's Asian Pacific American Program and Acting Chief of the Asian Division at the Library of Congress. He was among the pioneering faculty involved in Asian American Studies at UCLA and taught Asian  American history at the University of Hawai`i, UPenn, Hunter, Princeton, and Columbia.

Cover art: Laura Kina

Women & Children First presents Janet Stickmon and Laura Kina

Women &Children First
Sunday, July 14, 2013, 4:30-6p.m.
5233 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640

Women & Children First presents
Janet Stickmon and Laura Kina

Janet Stickmon is a professor of Humanities at Napa Valley College and founder of Broken Shackle Developmental Training.  Stickmon is the author of Crushing Soft Rubies--A Memoir and Midnight Peaches, Two O'clock Patience--A Collection of Essays, Poems, and Short Stories on Womanhood and the Spirit. Learn more at:

Laura Kina addresses Asian American and mixed race history and identity in her artwork and writing. She is a Vincent DePaul Associate Professor of Art, Media, & Design at DePaul University and the coeditor of War Baby/Love Child:  Mixed Race Asian American Art. Learn more about the book:

Laura Kina and Janet Stickmon, July14, 2013 @ Women & Children First in Chicago.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Columbia College - group show "Word on the Street: Image, Language, Signage"

Join me for the opening reception of this group show at Columbia College in Chicago. I'll be showing three new paintings and one oldie (

Laura Kina Okinawa - All American Food , 30 x 45 inches, Oil on canvas, 2013

Word on the Street: Image, Language, Signage

June 14 - August 10, 2013
Opening Reception: Friday, June 14, 5:00 - 7:00 pm

Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts
1104 South Wabash Ave. 2nd floor, Chicago, IL 60605
Gallery Hours: Monday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Featuring work by Superflex, Laura Kina, Chris Dorland, Mark Dean Veca, Joel Ross (with Jason Creps), Jason Thomas Pallas, Jaclyn Jacunski, Peter Liversidge, Jeffrey T. Jones, Jonathan Monk, Eric May, Steve Lambert, Nicolas Lampert, Justseeds, and Howling Mob Society.

This exhibition considers the expressive potential of image and language through signage: how do artists use the visual and physical characteristics of signage, along with its often site specific cultural currency, to create realms of poetic or political meaning in public space or the gallery? With a focus on forms of permanent and ephemeral signage this exhibition will consider artists' billboards, marquees, street signs, banners and posters among other forms of infrastructural signage.

Held in association with the THIRD ANNUAL TYPOGRAPHY SYMPOSIUM, a four-day extravagana celebrating typography and design, featuring signmaking workshops, a lecture by John Downer, and a panel on Chicago street typography.

Word on the Street shows exactly how “show” tells: how things and contexts, old, new and remixed, can be structured to speak: how a Plymouth Road Runner hood can be coaxed into a nostalgic ventriloquism on American road culture; how, shorn of their textual anchors, corporate logos speak graphically of a movement and grace that is unavailable in their original designs; how authorized and “unauthorized” signs can speak a tale of resistance and counter-hegemony by their very presence or re-presentation; and how mundane phrases, objects and products find their poetic voice in a new rhetoric of display.  
—From Display and the Multivocal Rhetoric of Places and Things, a catalog essay by Ward Tietz

For more information contact:
P 312-369-6630
F 312-369-8082