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 an 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.