February 4, 2021

We are thrilled to introduce you to Lauren Iida and Molly Murakami, the talented artists who will be joining Densho for our third annual artist residency program. Both Lauren and Molly have personal connections to WWII incarceration, and have found unique ways to explore those connections through artistic mediums. 

We’ll be sharing the work they produce for the residency over the course of the year, but for now, take a moment to learn more about them and to join us in welcoming them to the Densho family. 

Lauren Iida

Iida with a portion of her recently installed 120 foot long mural for Sound Transit in Federal Way, Washington. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Lauren Iida ( she/her) was born in Seattle and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cornish College of the Arts (2014). Her main medium is intricately hand-cut paper, often incorporating layers of ink washed paper and focusing on negative space and shadow play. Iida shares her time between Seattle and Cambodia, exhibiting her work, creating public art installations, and mentoring and representing emerging contemporary Cambodian artists through Open Studio Cambodia, an arts collective that she founded. In the US, Iida is represented by Seattle’s ArtXchange Gallery. Her work has been exhibited at numerous venues throughout Washington state and collected by the City of Seattle Portable Works Collection (2016), King County Public Art Collection (2019) and the Washington State Arts Commission (2020). Iida has been commissioned to create temporary and permanent public art by The City of Seattle, The City of Shoreline, Washington State Convention Center Addition, The Office of Arts and Culture/Seattle Department of Transportation, The City of Bellevue, Plymouth Housing, and Sound Transit.

Lauren Iida with her grandmother, Clara, at her 100th birthday in 2019. She still lives in West Seattle and continues to inspire Iida’s artwork with her incredible stories and extensive photo collection starting from around 1900, which is also archived with Densho in the Clara Hattori Collection.

“I am very pleased and honored to be selected as one of Densho’s 2021 Artists in Residence. Densho’s extensive digital archives have been an essential part of my own exploration and research about the experiences of my Japanese American members before, during, and after WWII. Densho’s historical photos, oral histories, and educational tools have influenced my artwork enormously over my art career and provided endless inspiration for exhibitions and public art projects. Thank you for this opportunity.” -Lauren Iida

Molly Murakami

Molly Murakami, self portrait.

Molly Murakami (she/her) is a cartoonist and storyteller from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has worked with organizations such as Bleacher Report, Candlewick Press, and Pollen Midwest, among others. In her personal work, she is often drawn to themes of family, shared histories, and identity. Murakami’s first self-published graphic novel, In Your Path, explores intergenerational trauma amidst her relationship to her late grandfather Yoshiteru, a Manzanar survivor, and much of her short works are similarly autobiographical in nature.

Molly Murakami’s grandfather, Yoshiteru, with his mother, Tsui (Yamamoto) Murakami; in Seabrook, NJ, where the family relocated after leaving Manzanar, 1948.

“I am immensely grateful and humbled to be named one of the 2021 Densho residents. It is no secret that our lives today are as fraught with tension and racial division as they were many years ago, and more and more I consider reacting to these issues my gift and duty as an artist and storyteller. In my practice, I strive to lend my voice to causes that our community and I must always be passionate about; I hope this residency will allow me to use my work to educate and promote understanding and healing for our diaspora and others. Densho has been so useful to me in my research and I am honored to give back to both Densho and our community in my own small way.” -Molly Murakami

About the Densho Artist-in-Residence Program

Densho’s 2021 artist-in-residence program will support two emerging artists to create artwork about WWII Japanese American incarceration history. The aim of the residency is to help educate general audiences about Japanese American WWII incarceration; connect this history to current instances of racial injustice and inequity; and to foster healing and dialogue around historical memory and intergenerational trauma. 

Due to Densho’s limited capacity to review the number of proposals that traditional CFPs have generated in the past, this year’s residency was structured as an invitational, with two artists — Lauren Iida and Molly Murakami — selected by a small team of Densho staff members. 

Read about our 2018 and 2019 artists-in-residence here and here (we skipped 2020 because, like everyone, we’d prefer to pretend that year didn’t exist….and also we just didn’t have the staff resources). 

Follow us on social media (@DenshoProject) and sign up for our eNews to see Lauren and Molly’s work as we share it this coming year!