January 18, 2024

In his recent work as one of Densho’s 2022/23 artists-in-residence, Matthew Okazaki used archival photos, sculptural pieces, and excerpts from his grandfather’s post-war diary to capture the resilient spirit reflected in the domestic interiors of Japanese American WWII incarceration. He wrapped up his artist residency with a final reflection on the role the residency played in shaping his practice and his engagement with WWII incarceration history.

My participation in the Densho Artist-in-Residence program was a transformative one in the advancement of my personal art practice. I had the opportunity to explore a central theme in my research and work, poring over thousands of incredible photos and documents in the Densho archive, and ultimately producing several sculptural pieces as well as a small digital art book. More than the final work itself, the residency allowed me the time and space to think through looking, think through writing, and think through making. The history of Japanese American incarceration is one we must never forget; this residency was both a way for me to connect with my own personal history, as well as continue the legacy of collectively remembering our past.

After the residency ended, I have continued to pursue the themes I explored during my time with Densho. I have had several conversations with some of those who listened to my talk, in the hopes of making a print version of my digital art book, as well as potentially exhibiting with like-minded artists. And, I am currently working on a large temporary public art piece that touches on many of the themes I explored during my residency, including Japanese and Japanese American history, as well as the subversive make-do construction methods and processes found in the World War II incarceration camps. The work is scheduled to be installed Summer 2024, in Boston.

Pages from a zine created by Matthew Okazaki during his artist residence with photos of a concentration camp barrack and Okazaki's art.
Preview of a zine created by Matthew Okazaki as part of his artist residency.
Front cover of a zine created by Matthew Okazaki titled There Was a Gong That Rang From the Mess Hall: Capturing the Make-Do in World War Two Japanese American Incarceration Camps
Front cover of the zine.
Print outs of archival photos used by Matthew Okazaki in his artwork.
Photos from Densho’s archives that informed Okazaki’s artwork during his 2022/23 residency.

Matthew Akira Okazaki (he/him) is an interdisciplinary artist and educator whose practice focuses on themes of longing and belonging. Formally trained as an architect, Okazaki takes materials and processes found in architecture to explore the relationship between parts and wholes, and the blurs between. By creating objects and images that explore the ambiguous territory of the threshold, Okazaki tries to capture our own struggles with reconciling our individual and collective identities through works that are simultaneously stable and precarious, familiar yet foreign.

[Header: Works in progress from Matthew Okazaki’s 2022/23 artist residency at Densho.]

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