Alison Moritsugu: Moons and Internment Stones

October 22, 2022 - February 12, 2023

When I think of my grandfather, I imagine a man displaced from his home in Hawaii, collecting stones in the Southwestern landscape with the rising moon above. I never knew my grandfather; he died before I was born. My connection to him comes from the small collection of rocks he gathered and from the moon above—the same moon he saw while imprisoned at the Santa Fe Internment Camp during World War II.

My series of rock and moon paintings relies on careful observation, whether my subjects are close at hand or hundreds of thousands of miles away. The moon paintings are based solely on sketches and color notes taken at random times in my life when the moon has evoked a poignant beauty, inspired curiosity, or provided solace. Working from these notes, I later complete the 12” x 12” oil paintings in my studio. These paintings are my attempt to capture the moon, an ever-constant subject seen generation after generation, at a very specific and fleeting moment in time. 

My grandfather arrived in Hawaii from Japan in 1907 when he was 18 years old. He later headed a fishing village in He‘eia on Oahu’s windward shore. After the start of World War II, he was separated from his wife and eight children and incarcerated at the Santa Fe Internment Camp from 1943 until the end of 1945. To pass the time, he collected a small box of rocks that was passed down to me when my father died in 2018.

By painting watercolors of these rocks, I am able to study them carefully. Each specimen has a particular shape, texture, color, and luster that must have caught my grandfather’s eye the same way a single stone or shell on a rocky beach calls out, asking to be picked up and turned over in our hands. The very process of painting allows me to glean some insight into each stone’s crystalline features, igneous peculiarities, or mundane simplicity—qualities that must have spoken to him.

As painters, we know the importance of the sensory and visual world. Each subject we choose to paint, each color and material we select to work with, each visual decision we make gives insight into who we are. In a similar way, each stone my grandfather selected and then carefully packed and carried back home to Hawaii is a reflection of who he was.

— Alison Moritsugu



October 22, Saturday, 11 a.m. — Opening of Five New Exhibits
February 2, Thursday, 7 p.m. — Artist & Curator Conversation: Alison Moritsugu and Sarah Freeman


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