Kakehashi: a Bridge to Japan

Orcas Island singer Susan Osborn - Contributed photo
Orcas Island singer Susan Osborn
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Scott Rasmussen, Journal editor

One would normally have to travel more than 4,000 miles to bridge the distance that separates Friday Harbor from the island of Japan.

Beginning this Friday, however, normal will become next to nothing, distance-wise, that is, as San Juan Islands Museum of Art kicks off a two-month long celebration of Japanese-inspired art and culture, as well as an appreciation for one tremendously tragic current event. More on that in a moment.

Entitled “Kakehashi: a Bridge to Japan”, the celebration gets underway, Friday, with a presentation by Japanese-American fiber artist Seiko Atsuta Purdue, who’s work will be featured at the IMA gallery, 232 A Street, in Friday Harbor. The evening begins with an opening reception, at 5 p.m., followed by a talk by Purdue about the works on display as part of her exhibit, entitled “Warp and Weft: the Northwest and Japan”, at 6:30 p.m. Acclaimed Orcas Island singer Susan Osborn, who has performed in Japan on various occasions, will also give a musical performance at the end of the evening.

Berry GroveA member of the faculty at Western Washington University, Purdue landed on the shores of the U.S. some 20 years ago, first living in New Jersey, then in Chicago, and then relocating to Bellingham in 2001. She spent the past two decades exploring connections between U.S. culture and those of her Japanese heritage. She earned accolades for her “Wish Tying” project, launched during her Chicago stay, wherein she collected the thoughts of numerous “wishes” left in temples and shrines (called “omikuji”, the wishes are actually paper fortunes that visitors purchase and then tie to a tree) as a way to link her background and culture to that of the Western World.

Since arriving in Bellingham, Purdue has immersed herself in the history and culture of the Pacific Northwest, and has discovered a close kinship with the region.

“I feel a much closer connection environmentally and geologically between here and Japan,” she says.

Purdue recently participated in an artists’ exhibition on Bainbridge Island, where she met many Japanese-Americans and developed an even greater appreciation for the journey of Japanese in the Northwest, including the internment camps of WW II. A more recent influence upon her artwork has been the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

“I made three works based on the Great East Japan Earthquake: power of water, instant loss, aftershocks, physical and emotional cracks, radiation, and more were explored through Paper making, Screen Printing and Mixed Media,” Purdue says. “I am showing one of these pieces, ‘After the Flood’ in this exhibition (at IMA).”

Along with hosting the Purdue exhibit, IMA is sponsoring and helping to coordinate various other events as part of its “Kakeashi” presentation. San Juan Island’s own Don Jarrell, a nuclear physicist, will give a talk entitled “Nuclear Truths: the Northwest and Japan” (date, time and location have yet to be determined), local culinary wizard Cynthia Burke will host two sushi-making seminars, Feb. 13 and March 26; IMA’s Kristy Schmidt will lead an origami-making class for children, Feb. 16 and March 16; a Japanese film will be shown (title and date in the works); and Osborn will be in concert, March 1, at Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church.

For more information and complete list of events, contact IMA, (360) 370-5050, or visit,


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