Thursday, October 31, 2013

Remembering curator Karin Higa

I don't remember when I first met Karin Higa, as it seems that she has always been at the center of Asian American art and critical race art history, but I do remember when I last saw her.

It was in the East Room of the White House on June 3, 2013 for an event organized by the White House Historical Association "in celebration of American art." We had been invited by the First Lady Michelle Obama and it was pretty amazing to see how many artist and curators of color were included. After the First Lady addressed our party, art historian Margo Machida found Karin sitting at a table to the side of the golden room bracing herself from the buzz of the festivities. She was wearing a stylish black and tan geometric designed sheath dress, a fabulous handbag (I'm remembering cobalt blue) and her signature black rimmed glasses. She had also lost much of her hair and was visibly very weak. I didn't know she had cancer until this moment. I had just seen her the summer before at an NEH Summer Institute on Asian American Art, where she was one of our instructors. A nervous group picture was taken. We got her some water. I'm kicking myself now for not staying there with her for not telling her how much I've admired her, how important she is. As a fellow Uchinanchu American I also sought her out to hear her personal story. Her last name is a family name in my family as well. I had hoped we were related. She was honestly one of the smartest women I know. She seemed so invincible... I guess I just assumed she would beat this, that she'd still be here. I'm in shock this morning to hear that she passed on. We are all going to miss her so much.
Karin Higa July 2012
Karin Higa July 2012 taking a tour of Po Kim's studio.
Karin Higa, in the center, surrounded by participants from the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute - Re-Envisioning American Art History: Asian American Art, Research, and Teaching July 2012

David Ng, "Karin Higa, longtime L.A. art curator, dies at 47," LA Times, October 31, 2013

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