From January 20-March 22, 2010, the artwork of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani was on exhibit in the Stanley Center for the Arts Loretta M. Romano Room Gallery.
Mirikitani is a Japanese American artist who was held in an American internment camp during World War II and was homeless for many years as an adult. He is the subject of the film The Cats of Mirikitani, directed by Linda Hattendorf. Much of Mirikitani’s work is about Camp Tule Lake, where he was held, Hiroshima, which claimed the lives of his mother’s family, September 11 and cats.
Why cats? “I like cats,” says Mirikitani simply in the documentary. Additionally, as a young man in Tule Lake, a young boy used to follow him around, requesting pictures of his favorite animal: the cat. The boy never saw the outside of Tule Lake again. He died there, and Mirikitani never forgot his young companion.
Why else? Perhaps because when one has survived a concentration camp in the land of the free and witnessed one of the most heartless acts of terror in history, the cat symbolizes resilience and survival. Perhaps it is because in the midst of anguish, the cat’s antics provide precious moments of levity.
And perhaps he just likes them and they make him happy.