Laura Kina debuts new paintings for her first solo show at FLXST Contemporary entitled "Holding On." Kina created these paintings while a Summer 2019 Joan Mitchell Artist-in-Resident in New Orleans.
The show features a collection of paintings of sacred, WWII memorial, and present-day military occupied sites in Okinawa, Japan. Together, the artwork examines the intersections of memory, legacies of trauma, through the genre of landscape painting. Kina was inspired to create this series about her ancestral homeland after observing the prop roots from banyan trees in Okinawa and how they keep holding on, regenerating, finding new routes to persist and reclaim the land around them. The paintings also reference the mythology of Kijimuna wood spirits and other indigenous Okinawan beliefs of spirit guardians of the land and sea.
Okinawa used to be the independent Ryukyu Kingdom and was seized by Japan in 1879. Following the Battle of Okinawa in WWII, the US occupied Okinawa from 1945–1972. It was “returned” to Japan in 1972 and is currently home to more than 70% of the US military bases in Japan despite being less than 0.6% of the total landmass of Japan.
One of the many concerns resulting from the US military presence in Okinawa is the construction of a replacement for the US Marine Corps Futenma base in Henoko, located in northern Okinawa Prefecture. (Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once dubbed by Futenma as the “most dangerous base in the world.”) Okinawans have been actively protesting this project for over 20 years. And in February 2019, voters passed a referendum by 72% opposing the Henoko base construction. Japan and the US have disregarded the will of the people by starting the dumping of dirt into Oura Bay in March 2019 to make way for two aircraft landing strips. The military land-reclamation project in Ouro Bay is destroying the sacred sea and pristine coral reefs and is critically endangering the existence of the dugong in the region.
Although Kina calls Chicago home, she wants to draw awareness through her artwork to the beauty and deep history of Okinawa and the unfair burden that US and Japanese national security have placed on the people and environment of her ancestral homeland.
This work has been funded in part by a 2019 DePaul University Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Summer Research Grant and a 3Arts Residency Fellowship Artist-In-Residence at the Joan Mitchell Residency.
ABOUT LAURA KINA
Born in California and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Laura Kina is a mixed-race Okinawan American artist and scholar based in Chicago. Kina earned her MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago studying under Kerry James Marshall and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media, & Design and Director of Critical Ethnic Studies at DePaul University. Kina is a 2019 Joan Mitchell Foundation Artist-in-Residence awardee, 2018 3Arts 3AP, and 2011 National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient. She has exhibited nationally and internationally including India Habitat Centre and India International Centre, Nehru Art Centre, Okinawa Prefectural Art Museum, Chicago Cultural Center, Spertus Museum, the Japanese American National Museum, the Rose Art Museum, and the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. Kina is the co-author of Queering Contemporary Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2017) and War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013). Publications of Kina’s artwork include Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos (Bess Press, 2019); Trans-Pacific Japanese American Studies: Conversations on Race and Racializations (University of Hawaii Press, 2016); Sugar/Islands: Finding Okinawa in Hawaiʻi – the art of Laura Kina and Emily Hanako Momohara (Bear River Press, 2015); I Want the Wide American Earth (Smithsonian National Museum of American History, 2013); and The New Authentics: Artists of the Post-Jewish Generation (Spertus Press, 2007).