Giant Robot at Kokoro Craft Affair

We don’t “table” often at events except Comic Con. Yet the annual Kokoro Craft Affair at JANM is a perfect combination of community, fundraising and family. It’s run by the volunteers and it’s estimated that a 1000 people came through. Vendors spotted the lobby and hall, MC’s made raffle announcements and Lomo Arigato truck set up outside. We’re visited by the volunteers, staffers, many who are now old friends and faces that make us want to be the best GR we can be. The better we are, the better the museum is – even if it’s just a tiny speck of improvement. When Museum head Dr. Greg Kimura came by and said, “well, it’s not quite Comic-Con…” I’m thinking it’s more than Comic-Con.

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Giant Robot Sat 10/5/2013 at Kokoro Craft Boutique

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JANM: Smithsonian Exhibition: I Want the Wide American Earth (photos)

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Smithsonian Banners – I Want the Wide American Earth (TMAS 6)

Tell Me a Story 6 – Smithsonian Banners – I Want the the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story

Years ago, I sat in a room with professors and writers at a small Asian American Smithsonian office in Washington DC. Our job was to work on a series of banners that would describe the Asian American experience. The banners would then possibly travel to exhibitions, schools and maybe more.

It was two full days of discussing possible topics and detailed content that would lay the framework of each banner. It was a starting point which often included tons of forgotten history. I remember clearly, one of the professors said although Carlos Buloson has name recognition, “Larry  Itliong was the shit.” I quietly thought, “who?”

Historical events and dates were thrown around like no big deal – the exact  things they taught to university students. I couldn’t compete. Yet, the broad strokes and ideas of what might work in an exhibition that can educate a middle American family? That’s close to what I do.

The days were moderated by new Asian American department head, Konrad Ng and they were difficult. By end, we came out of the room with a carefully nit-picked draft of a narrative. We still weren’t done. There were holes here and there, and the end product would be in the hands of the Smithsonian.

Years have passed and the project is now on the walls at the Japanese American National Museum. Seeing parts of the banners for the first time brings back the voices from the discussions. Some of the items made it and some didn’t. Some people who were current a few years ago are now outdated, with new faces filling in their spaces. Some of these new faces performed at the opening night reception while many future faces watched. The Wide American Earth? It’s moving.

A close up of a banner.

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The Greatest “Thing” in America

The once-in-a-lifetime event of visiting America’s premier building, The White House can’t be compared to much of anything. I haven’t been everywhere, but I have been to the Empire States Building, the original WTC and the Statue of Liberty. I’ve also seen Mount Rushmore, Grand Canyon and Devil’s Tower. There are many beautiful places, both natural and man-made that are “more” historical and maybe untethered to society while being greatly symbolic. Yet, The White House is arguably the greatest “Thing” in America.

In the late 80′s, the big news of crack cocaine was purchased where? Shockingly, it was across the street from The White House. It was allegedly set up, but the effect, thanks to the bust location made headlines. It’s the place that might have the highest standard to meet. If anything goes wrong near or in The White House, it makes news.
White House 2013

That’s the view from the back door. That’s often-camera-shy Cate taking a pic.

Since 9/11, The White House is perhaps one of the most protected buildings in the world. For the people who hate Americans, it’s at the top of the list of places to topple. It’s toppling efforts are depicted in two current high budgeted apocalyptic pictures, Olympus has Fallen and White House Down, and it’s dramatized on TV’s House of Cards and The West Wing. Of course there’s an underground bunker that’s laden with iris scanners and tunnels. There’s a giant kitchen where chef (Cristeta Pasia Comerford), a Philippine-American who could beat anyone on Top Chef and Iron Chef and couldn’t fathom Kitchen Nightmares. She’s been there since 1995 and is the first “Executive Chef”. There’s a bowling alley, which is bad ass on it’s own and a movie theater that can play anything in any format. Imagine the Secret Service watching White House Down in The White House. It has probably already happened. The windows panes are antique, wavy hand-blown glass. The hallway we enter from post security check points (plural) has a huge boulder sized sculpture of Abraham Lincoln’s head. Even the back door is picture worthy. For some reason, a photo of walking in is important. Imagine that The White House is so bad ass of a “Thing” that’s it’s actually the original home-office. If you work at home, you’ve been doing it “White House Style” and didn’t even know it. It’s also highly probable that the insane myths of The White House may not meet the grandeur of its reality. Yes, it’s that bad-ass of a “Thing.”
White House 2013
The vast wide entrance room

Getting to wander around with friends and peers who are part of the White House’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, room by room will never get old. AngryAsianMan Phil, VC Shinae, JANM Greg Kimura, Wing Luke Beth Takekawa, CAAM Stephen Gong, ACV John Woo, filmmaker Tad Nakamura, and many others, some of who I know and most who I don’t overwhelmed themselves by merely standing and looking around. Our familial pasts are different, yet we’re a common story of being fairly recent immigrants, just a generation or few removed that makes this experience unique and also strange. Getting to visit The White House is a result of circumstances. It’s a combination of our doings, our parents doings and perhaps even their parents doings. It’s also the result of a different administration that’s keeping an eye out for the underdog. Most of “us” are products or are the product of some type of injustice or discrimination, some just by looking different but others by the same government that invited us on this day. My own father was incarcerated at a Japanese American Concentration Camp 70 years ago. Of my visit, he thought it was insane and cool. After all, he’s an American and my visit to this place means something to him. For the few hours of wandering and taking in history, along with President Obama’s remarks just tens of feet away, and then the performances, it’s all about the moment – free of anything, anywhere.
White House 2013
Close photo of The President, done with an iPhone



JANM: Portraiture Now May 11-Sept 22, 2013

Smithsonian Exhibition travels to JANM. It’s an amazing feat for the Smithsonian to have an Asian American exhibition like this, but for it to travel? Even better. See it while you can in LA.

“Portraiture Now displays the diversity of contemporary Asian American identity through the groundbreaking work of seven visual artists—CYJO, Zhang Chun Hong, Hye Yeon Nam, Shizu Saldamando, Roger Shimomura, Satomi Shirai, and Tam Tran.” (JANM – Portraiture Now)

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Teaching Kids Custom Figures

I was in teacher mode for the second time in a month. This time, I was in Orange County to a room of 30 or so kids ranging from 6 to middle school. Why not show them that custom figures can be art? From the first time out teaching, I learned that there’ll be one who can’t get a start. How do you overcome this? I asked her some question and get negative answers. “No, I can’t do that, no I don’t like that.” My trick was to get her holding a pen. I told her to start by writing her name on the bottom and coloring the base of the figure a solid color. Next thing I knew, she was off to the races. Of course at the end, I said, “good job, it came out fine.” And she said, “no, it’s not.” But I came back with, “I think so” and split out before she could reply negatively. The styles ranged from coloring clean to abstract assembly – most of the works was in a style that I couldn’t fathom. Somehow this project was green lit and disguised as part of a “career day.” Yes, someone or a few among this bunch will go on and do art and maybe they’ll remember custom figures too.

I think the figure below has the cutest cat face ever. Who taught this kid how to do the eyes like this? …and green nose? Love it. I could go on about the goodnesses of each piece. There’s something in all of them that I like. Well, most of them, even from the one who couldn’t get a start.

Thanks Kizuna, DKE, OCBC and JANM.

Tons of kids, each with a custom figure.

See how tiny the girl in orange with the pink glasses is? She’s 6 and did a great job with her figure.


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JANM Gala Dinner

The JANM Gala Dinner is an annual event. In 2006, I received a Visionary in the Art award and since then it’s been 3 Biennale Exhibition and a Zen Garage show along with some fun events. Yet, it’s not that much. Last night honored the late Daniel Inouye, the highest ranking politician who was Asian American. Along with him, 2012 was a tough year for Japanese Americans and the night honored them too. The thing about their great accomplishments isn’t about their “day jobs” that’s what they did 9-5. It’s the huge list of things they’ve done outside of it. That’s where they shined.

The silent auction included special lunch with George Takei. That would be fun no matter what.


Norman Mineta, Greg Kimura, and Gordon Yamate. Thanks much for the work, y’all and thanks Gordon Yamate. Glad I didn’t drink the vodka.

What seems like bean soup is actually the bean soup that Daniel Inouye used to eat. It’s the actual recipe for the soup from DC. Evidently, he’d invite people to eat bean soup with him if you donated a certain amount to a certain place. It was nice to have it with him. A great idea for the night if you think about it.

After party shenanigans. That’s a silhouette of Edwin Ushiro waving against a projected photo of… Edwin Ushiro waving.  Photo from GR Biennale 3




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JANM: Supernatural: Tim Watters, Edwin Ushiro and Audrey Kawasaki

From left to right: JANM: Supernatural Tim Watters, Edwin Ushiro, Greg Kimura, and Audrey Kawasaki

Great exhibition.

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Show reviews: Bad Religion at The Echo, Quicksand and Title Fight at The Fonda, FIDLAR at Amoeba, White Dove at JANM

Holy crap! I got to see Bad Religion at The Echo. And Quicksand back together. And FIDLAR for free. But first things first. Last week was the closing of the Giant Robot Biennale 3 at JANM, where I got to see my friend (and rad artist) Jack Long play with his band, White Dove. (more…)


JANM GR Biennale 3 Closing Night Event Photos

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GR Biennale in the LA Times

In Hero Complex of the LA Times. Thanks to Deborah Vankin for writing this piece. (LA Times – GR Biennale) The closing night event is this evening (Jan 17th 6-10pm) and the exhibition closes on sunday (Jan 20th).

There’s also a panel discussion on custom figures on Saturday (Jan 19th) – featuring Luke Chueh, Yoskay Yamamoto, Scott Tolleson, and David Horvath. 3-4pm at JANM.

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Giant Robot Biennale Closing Night Jan 17th Free Thurs 6-10pm

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JANM Oshogatsu 2013 New Years

Photos by Kat Rivera. It was an amazing day. Thanks to the JANM staff for the effort that made so many people smile.

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GR Biennale: LA Magazine: Remix Panel

It’s coming. Announced here. Project Remix Panel. Fine Art? Not Quite? What the… check it out. It’s fine art.

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JANM Entourage High Schoolers Making Stuff

I tried to help teach a class of kids at JANM. Using the Big Boss Robot, their job was to make something fun with what materials they had-glue guns, wire, paint, and general junk. All part of the Biennale! It’s hard to talk to High School kids, I could see them peering at me, wondering “wtf does this guy know?” Or perhaps it’s the complete opposite… and them thinking, “wtf do I know…” Either way, I think they listened. Once they got the robots in their hands, they got to work quick.

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JANM Remembers Senator Daniel Inouye

The connection runs deeply. From Inouye being on the Board to being married to a previous CEO.

LOS ANGELES —DECEMBER 17, 2012—Japanese American National Museum’s statement on the passing of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye:

“The Japanese American community is deeply saddened by this loss,” said Dr. G.W. (Greg) Kimura, President and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum. “Senator Daniel K. Inouye is irreplaceable. He embodies the very best of our community and our nation. He fought with valor and distinction on the battlefield and he was a tireless supporter of civil rights and social justice for all Americans. His legacy will live on in the many lives and institutions he touched, like the National Museum, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, and their family during this difficult time.”

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JANM 12/15 2-4pm Saturday Workshops with Saelee Oh and Albert Reyes

The holiday celebration continues on Saturday, December 15 with more excitement for the entire family. Enjoy participating in a hands-on art workshop from 2 PM to 4 PM with artists Albert Reyes and Saelee Oh from JANM’s Giant Robot Biennale 3. A special holiday photo opportunity with Japanese American Santa is available from 11 AM to 2 PM, and a special book signing from noon to 2 PM with acclaimed author and Usagi Yojimbo artist, Stan Sakai (signing for books only). Events on Saturday, December 15 are free with Museum admission.

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GR Biennale at JANM – Return of the Giant Robot, and Some Cats.

Return of the Giant Robot, and Some Cats. Hopefully it pushes a few more people in the doors at JANM. The exhibition continues through January 20th. (LA Downtown News  - Biennale)

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GR Biennale 3 at JANM – Target Free Saturday and Rob Sato

The Target Free Saturday at JANM was a hit drawing 1000 folks. Kids made robots out of cardboard boxes, film canisters, crepe paper, and spare junk parts. Many also learned about comics with Yumi Sakugawa and did some watercolors with Rob Sato.

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