Frank Taira's "Fisherman's Wharf" (1963).

SAN FRANCISCO — The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, 1840 Sutter St. in San Francisco’s Japantown, is exhibiting paintings by Japanese American artist Frank Taira (1913-2010).

The exhibit, which opened June 11, features two paintings that reflects Taira’s journey through art and life.

The son of immigrants from Okinawa, Taira was born in San Francisco and was met with much adversity throughout his life, but he faced each challenge with an art brush in one hand and fortitude in the other. At the age of 15, he stayed in the U.S. when his parents returned to Okinawa with his siblings so that he could complete his education in California. He supported himself by working as a “house boy” for an American family and graduated from Lowell High School in 1934.

Frank Taira's "San Francisco Harbor" (1961)

Taira was a self-taught artist who later studied at the California School of Fine Arts (1935-1938), Columbia University (1945), Arts Student League (1956) and New School for Social Research (1957). His promising art career, which included an invitation for a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art (now the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) in 1939, was interrupted when he was imprisoned in the Topaz, Utah internment camp from 1942 to 1944. None of his pre-World War II artwork survived.

While in camp, Taira managed to teach art alongside noted painter Chiura Obata, and upon his release moved to New York to focus on providing beauty, peace and harmony to those who saw his paintings. Taira was classically trained and experimented with semi-abstraction and realism.

In a 2005 interview conducted by Taira’s caregivers, he said, “The artist feels something but it’s interesting to know what the viewers feel. The artist’s work is there and people react to it. The painting should talk for itself without any detail or explanation from the artist.”

Taira went on to say that he didn’t want others to think he was more “intelligent” than them and he wanted his work to be “recognizable.”

Over the decades, Taira’s artwork has been exhibited across the U.S. and Italy, and has earned him seven solo exhibitions, 35 group exhibitions, and 10 awards, including a few grand prize honors for his sterling silver and semi-precious stone jewelry designs.

The JCCCNC wants to provide a home for the paintings that Taira described as his “children.” For more information and any inquiries, email or call (415) 567-5505.

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