Ruins at Sunset, 1960
Oil on canvas, 36" x 30"
Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum
Rutgers University, NJ USA
NY Times 2009: Primer and Show on Women who Loved and Created Art.
NY Times 2009: Women Determined Not Only to Make Art But to Have It Seen.
Ms. Okoshi chose Ruins at Sunset as her contribution to the 100 Women Artists show of NAWA, the National Association of Women Artists, which traveled throughout the US in 1994. During WWII, she lived through the daily air raids of Tokyo - the relentless bombing of homes, farms, markets and temples, all was in ruins. The surrender of Japan marked more endings, bringing home from war her husband to nurse back from tuberculosis. He passed away the second night they moved into their house. Her mother also died in the first years after the war; with no husband, Ms. Okoshi moved into her father's home, but he soon announced he was re-marrying. "Go to America, there is more opportunity there," he said to her. It was an odd thing to suggest, to petition the US to return to her birth country so soon after being its enemy at war. Yet, in earlier in the century her father had successfully pursued his own fortune there as a young immigrant, and there was no place for her as a widow in postwar Japan. Working as a housemaid in Seattle from 1952 to 1958, Ms. Okoshi began to study art at night, and art called her to New York City. Perhaps she only began to more fully process the destruction of Tokyo more than 15 years later, halfway around the world:
Ruins at Sunset, 1960: "I saw this in a dream," she once said to me, looking beyond with her arms extended upward, hands open as if she had had to leave the image a half a globe away to be able to behold it. Quiet now, the skies, thick with destruction, slowly release their heavy catch; the fires have tired out, their smoldering will ease the sun to its setting without comment.
While she became best known for her Persistent Light and Plenum series of washi (mulberry or other natural fiber paper) and acrylic on canvas, Ms. Okoshi seemed anchored in Ruins at Sunset, which she painted several times in New York City. She had spent early years with grids of large, round forms and irregular shapes of washi, experimenting with oils and acrylics in form, formlessness, static dimension, fluidity. Later, as if the smoke of Ruins at Sunset decided to line up in a grid of ovals, light could take over. We then see her in the Persistent Light series, and the Plenum series. We present a sample of these series on this website. Margret Mukai, 2022.
A full-page image of the painting above, Ruins at Sunset, appears in:
Asian Traditions / Modern Expressions / Asian American Artists and Abstraction 1943-1970, edited by Jeffrey Wechsler, Henry J. Abrams Inc., Publ., 1997, p.80.