Katie Yamasaki

Katie Yamasaki is a muralist, community artist, teacher, and illustrator based in Brooklyn. Her work as an artist has a wonderful way of sparking dialogues among diverse groups of people of all ages. Yamasaki’s artwork is known internationally; she has painted more than eighty murals in places all around world. She is also very familiar to our neighbors in Sunset Park, where two of her murals are located. One is on 3rd Avenue and 23rd Street, and the other is at PS 24, just two blocks away from the Dedalus Foundation’s Sunset Park location.

Yamasaki’s work installed at the Dedalus Foundation, Sunset Park offices
Yamasaki’s work installed at the Dedalus Foundation, Sunset Park offices

On March 31, 2017 the Dedalus Foundation’s Interns from Sunset Park High School visited Katie Yamasaki in her Red Hook studio. During their visit, students discussed immigrant heritage, the history of Japanese internment during World War II, and Yamasaki’s own career trajectory as a working artist.

Dedalus Foundation High School Interns visiting Yamasaki’s studio
Dedalus Foundation High School Interns visiting Yamasaki’s studio

This summer our Sunset Park office is proud host to an exhibition that includes twenty-seven of Yamasaki’s paintings from two series. Portraits from Yamasaki’s Pintando Postales series invite viewers to imagine life in two distinct cities from the perspective of middle school children. Pintando Postales are large-scale portraits that were inspired by correspondence between children in Santiago de Cuba and New York City. Yamasaki describes them as “an attempt to illustrate childhood and adolescence from the voice of the child, catching the moment in life where identity, imagination, and expression are at once hugely important, and extremely fluid concepts.”

Yamasaki’s work installed at the Dedalus Foundation, Sunset Park offices
Yamasaki’s work installed at the Dedalus Foundation, Sunset Park offices

Many of the works on view at the Dedalus Foundation are original illustrations from Fish for Jimmy, Yamasaki’s first book as both author and illustrator, which was published by Holiday House in 2013. In this book, based on Yamasaki’s own family history in Japanese internment camps, the often omitted experience of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War is explained and illustrated from the perspective of children. In a review of Fish for Jimmy, the New York Times praised Yamasaki’s illustrations, saying, “Yamasaki… creates sweeping paintings that capture the story in a literal manner even as she makes bold metaphorical leaps… The overall result is a dramatic, visual feast.” McGraw-Hill recently purchased Fish for Jimmy to include in their textbooks, an achievement of particular significance to Yamasaki who remembers being corrected by her history teachers: “When I was in junior high school, I actually had teachers tell me that the internment didn’t happen… this after asking me to tell the class, ‘because you’re Japanese,’ what happened on December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor). To have my work about the internment be included into the same textbooks that my former ignorant teachers would have used in the classroom is incredibly satisfying.”

Katie Yamasaki, Fish for Jimmy Paintings: 6_7, 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 13” x 24”
Katie Yamasaki, Fish for Jimmy Paintings: 6_7, 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 13” x 24”

Yamasaki’s artwork will be on view at the Dedalus Foundation until the end of August, allowing the students in our Summer Programs to use Yamasaki’s artwork as a direct source of inspiration. Local community groups are also invited to use the gallery as a classroom for guided visits. The exhibition is open to the public by appointment from 9:30am-5:30pm, Monday-Friday.

 Dedalus Foundation Pre College Portfolio Students looking at the exhibition
Dedalus Foundation Pre College Portfolio Students looking at the exhibition

To schedule an appointment or group visit please contact programs@dedalusfoundation.org or call 212.220.4220.

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