March 2012

Tohuko Japan

On March 10th, I was honored to participate in the One Year After Benefit Concert for the Children of Tohuko Japan. The event was sponsored by Music at the Mission and Steve Yamaguma of Design to Market and helped to raise funds for Japan relief.

On July 4, 2012, 1000 Cranes made it to Japan!
The 1000 Cranes created by the many volunteers for the “One Year After: Benefit Concert for the Children of Tohoku, Japan”, made its way over the Pacific Ocean and landed in Fukushima, Japan bringing our best wishes to the orphans the Tohoku region. Please read this moving letter from Katherine Geeraert, communications manager of Living Dreams and founder of Friends of Soma.

P.S. This letter arrived on the Fourth of July!

Dear Steve,

I hope this letter finds you well.  I wanted to thank you and all the wonderful volunteers and contributors for your efforts in your wonderful benefit One Year After. More specifically I thank you all so very much for the beautiful cranes you sent to us. When I opened the package in my office, I was nearly in tears, just so very touched by all the hard work, care, and love that went into folding so many of the beautiful creatures, each so very unique from the next. I  brought the cranes to Soma Children’s Home, the local orphanage where I volunteer at with the Tohoku Kid’s Project. Below are some photos!

Please share these photos with anyone and everyone involved in the project, as well, you may put them online if you wish. Sorry I couldn’t send pictures of the children’s smiling faces, as a measure to protect the vulnerability and anonymity of the children we only release photos that do not show their faces, I hope you understand. 🙂

Please let me know if I can help you with anything at all, and thank you again so much for all your care, support, and hard work. As a teacher and volunteer in the area, I can see with my own eyes the wonderful impact your donations and care has had on the lives of the children here, and I thank you so kindly and sincerely for that. With each child’s smile I can see new found strength, hope, and dreams. As a teacher working with these precious children, I can find new courage, strength, and inspiration in their excitement and cheer. After so much tragedy and hardship, people can carry on by leaning on each other and by exchanging love and care, your gift to the Children’s Home has certainly given so well to that.

Thank you so very much.

Kindest Regards,
Katherine Geeraert
Home Communications Manager – Living Dreams NPO
Founder- Friends of Soma Society


A writing about my art shown at the fundraiser by Jan Rindfleisch, Art Activist, Executive Director, Euphrat Museum of Art (retired)

Kathy Fujii-oka

exhibits selections of her art in conjunction with

One Year After, A Benefit Concert for the Children of Tohoku, Japan,

March 2012

I saw the Kokeshi Doll in the detritus.”  So Kathy Fujii-oka describes a news photo, the impetus for her painting honoring the children who died in the 2011 tsunami/earthquake, the worst natural disaster in the history of Japan.  Ghostly doll bodies emerge from, fade into, the abstraction.  The painting marks one lost child, a country’s lost children, and every child ripped from us too soon.

Her abstraction is drawn from her spiritual series.  Now swirls, drips, incisions, take on new meanings: parallel worlds, living with memories, heartaches, personal pain. Fujii

Fujii-oka’s mother collected Kokeshi dolls. Culturally they go back to early 19th c. Japan (items for the tourist trade at the Tohuko-region hot springs).  “I have been painting the Kokeshi Doll since 2007, symbolizing my mother and myself.”  In an earlier painting the doll was one with which she played when she was little and still keeps.  “Koke.”  In additional to a symbol, she says it has been a spiritual guiding force for her, an old friend.

Fujii-oka’s paintings, sculptures, and large-scale installations combine gut emotion with a keen sense of form, whether with paint, fabric, feathers, balloons, store-bought or natural materials.

Earth, nest, birds, altars, abstracts.  Her forceful artworks pull at emotions in an open-ended way, giving full range to metaphor and personal viewer response.  Yet one can’t help but be called to Fujii-oka’s own underlying story as a jumping off point.  Take the wholesale nursery business and growing up in the East Bay.  What is more basic than dirt, the earth, working it?  This shows up in her installation Honoring My Father.  Then birds, nests, and freedom.  Family drama. Retail nursery business in Silicon Valley.  Parenthood.  Expanding exhibition opportunities in New York, including at the time of 9/11.  Moving forward at UC Berkeley.  When we see the total, the swirls and drips, incisions, insertions, and warm colors of her art take on so many meanings: the simultaneity of worlds, life interruptions, and discoveries along the way.

Painting/sculpture is one part of her art.  Fujii-oka combines art, education, and community, by writing, organizing/collaborating, and helping others.  The larger art is doing, creating an esthetic example, how life extends art’s boundaries.  She graciously acknowledges those who help her, reaches out to others, tells the story.  History and healing.  Now in San Francisco, she has been proactive, a Board Member, with the Asian American Women Artists Association.  Her altar installation, a tribute to her mother, was an integral part of the Dia De Los Muertos (Day Of the Dead) exhibition at SomArts: working “alongside other artists in a community setting, creating our altars together.”   She has volunteered, building community at Creativity Explored, an art center for developmentally disabled artists.  She helps out with relief one year after the Tsunami.

Vital Force, a large Fujii-oka painting in red and orange is a powerful tribute to life, fitting in the midst of tragedy and recovery.  “The red chakra, root,” she says.  “Strong spirals, swirls.”

Jan Rindfleisch

Art Activist

Executive Director, Euphrat Museum of Art (retired)

Kathy Fujii-oka exhibits selections of her art as part of One Year After, A Benefit Concert for the Children of Tohoku, Japan.  Co-organizer Steve Yamaguma: “March 10, 2012 marks the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that destroyed tens of thousands of lives in the worst natural disaster in the history of Japan. It is estimated that it will take over ten years and billions of dollars to rebuild the areas affected in the Tohoku region of Northern Japan. In addition to over 200 children orphaned in the disaster, thousands of children were affected due to loss of their home, schools, and other belongings.  We have an opportunity to stand and support the relief efforts in the Tohoku area, especially for the children.”