Last week I took students in my ENGL 388 “Asian American Literatures” class to our campus art museum, the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art.
We had the chance to go behind the scenes and look at beautiful and powerful artwork by Roger Shimomura and Yoonmi Nam. This artwork complemented our reading of Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660 (1946), and prefaced our current reading of Aimee Suzara’s Souvenir (2014).
Shimomura is a retired art professor and Nam currently is an art professor, both at the University of Kansas. These Kansan artists of Asian descent provide a local context for our exploration of how culture can function as a medium through which to express the joys and sorrows of being Asian in America.
Kathrine Schlageck, Associate Curator of Education at the Beach Museum, first guided us through a looking activity with Shimomura’s Enemy Alien #2, currently on display in the gallery, and then showed us his prints, along with Nam’s ink drawings and watercolor paintings, in the museum’s Works Exam Room.
Shimomura’s colorful paintings gave students deeper insight into Japanese American incarceration during World War II, which Okubo’s sketches in her graphic memoir introduced. Nam’s works resonate with Suzara’s poetry, as they both reimagine refuse objects as beautiful.
As a lover of art, I always try to find a way to incorporate the Beach Museum in my literature courses. And the Beach Museum staff always is willing and ready to support student learning and research.
— Tom Sarmiento, Assistant Professor