On May 9, 2020, ceramic artist, photographer and journalist, Setsuko Winchester installed her Freedom From Fear/Yellow Bowls Project on the back lawn of Liljestrand House overlooking Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Exploring questions such as “Who is American?”, “What does citizenship mean?” and “How long do you have to be here to be considered a bona fide member of this mongrel group?” Setsuko hand-pinched 120 yellow tea bowls in various sizes and shades of yellow. Each of the 120 bowls represents 1,000 of the 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry (of which 70% were US citizens) who were incarcerated after FDR signed Executive Order 9066 in February of 1942. The color yellow was chosen to represent “The Yellow Peril” as they were referred to at the time.
From 2015-2016, Setsuko and Simon packed up the 120 bowls and drove to each of the ten concentration camps, some located in the most remote, least visited parts of the United States. The bowls were arranged and photographed at each of the camps.
Setsuko’s hope is that by exposing these places of “fear” we can finally exorcise the shame and guilt, and move forward rather than blame the victim or shame the oppressors. Rather, use history as a way to learn how to move forward rather than repeat the past.
In addition to the camps, the bowls have been arranged and photographed in other symbolic locations connected to the concept of “freedom from fear.” The Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, NY; The Four Freedoms Rotunda at The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, where the Four Freedoms paintings by artist Norman Rockwell reside; The footsteps of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC; The Memorial to Japanese American Patriotism in Washington DC; The FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY; and Ellis Island, NY.
Setsuko Winchester was born in New York City and has been dabbling in ceramics and the arts her whole life. Her work as a journalist began after graduating from the Graduate School of Journalism at New York University, first as an editor and producer at WNYC in NY City and then at NPR in Washington, DC for Morning Edition and Talk of the Nation. In 2006, she moved to Western Massachusetts to pursue a life-long interest in ceramics and the visual arts. Together with her writer husband, she’s traveled the world while also embracing the rural life, learning how to make organic cider, harvesting honey, raising chickens and helping to found the local newspaper in her town of Sandisfield, MA.
In 2012, after the death of her mother, she began looking into her own history and into the history of Japanese Americans and Asian peoples in the United States. Her latest project, Freedom From Fear/Yellow Bowl Project is a work of conceptual art that incorporates photography, ceramics and history.
Simon Winchester, OBE, a British writer, journalist and broadcaster, has spent his career as a correspondent in the UK, US, Middle East, South America and Asia. In 1997, he moved to New York and penned the New York Times best-seller, The Professor and the Madman. He now works entirely as an author having written many successful non-fiction titles including Krakatoa, The Map that Changed the World and Pacific. Mr. Winchester was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire ‘for services to journalism and literature’ in 2006.