Hopkins art exhibit tells story of Japanese internment

Work from both Chris and Jan Hopkins at Schack until Sept. 1
By Brandon Gustafson | Jul 18, 2018
Courtesy of: Doug Kimball Jan and Chris Hopkins were named Schack Art Center’s 2018 Artists of the Year.

When you walk into the Schack Art Center, more than likely you’re going to see a piece of art by either Chris or Jan Hopkins.

The couple, who live just outside the Mukilteo city limits in the Edgewater area of Everett, has taken over the show floor at the Schack with their exhibit, “Americans Interned: A Family's Story of Social Injustice.”

The exhibit focuses on the stories of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast who were removed from their houses during World War II as a result of Executive Order 9066.

The stories are personal for the Hopkins family as members of Jan’s family were among those interned, including her parents, who met at Camp Harmony, a temporary processing facility at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.

Chris, a renowned artist perhaps best known for painting movie posters for “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Return of the Jedi,” as well as program covers for Super Bowls XX, XXI and XXIII, says he does a lot of narrative work, and became intrigued by the history of Japanese internment as he got older.

“My father-in-law and I became really close,” Chris said. “He’d tell me about his past on fishing trips. And there was no bitterness towards it.”

Chris said he’s spent a lot of time researching and learning more about the topic, and has accumulated a large body of work on Japanese internment.

One of his favorite pieces on display is “All American Boy,” a painting of a young Japanese-American boy wearing a New York Yankees cap with his baseball gear, standing in front of a wall with the words “No Japs Wanted.”

“They (the kids) didn’t know they were any different until they were older,” Chris said. “This picture kind of says it all because he is the ‘All American Boy’ with his Yankees hat and his bat and glove.”

Another one of his pieces is currently on tour with the Norman Rockwell Museum.

“During his era, he was a great storyteller,” Chris said. “It’s cool to be able to say, ‘I’m on tour with Norman Rockwell.’”

Jan started working on pieces centered on this theme shortly after he did, as she too wanted to learn more about the history of Japanese internment.

“Some of the faces you see in my paintings are family members,” Chris said. “You’ll see her father, mother, aunt. She made it really personal.”

The pictures all have stories to tell, including teaching what “No-No Boys” were.

“When you were interned, the U.S. government had you fill out this questionnaire, and there were two questions that some often answered ‘no’ to,” Chris said. “They had to do with denouncing loyalty to the Japanese emperor, and if they’d be willing to serve as a combat soldier.”

The people who answered no to these questions were dubbed “No-No Boys.”

Chris currently has over 30 paintings on display, and Jan has just a handful, but Chris is a huge fan of the work his wife has done.

“Hers are quality over quantity,” he said. “Jan’s are very heartfelt and labor-intensive. This is years’ worth of body of work. Hers really take a lot of time.”

The couple just recently started showcasing work at Schack, and was recently named their 2018 Schack Art Center Artists of the Year.

“Jan and I really wanted to get on board with this (the exhibit), and her steadfastness really kept me in,” Chris said. “It’s a depressing topic, but it’s an important one.”

With a seemingly explosive political climate regarding the treatment of illegal immigrants with families being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, some may feel the Hopkins are trying to make a political statement. Chris said that’s not the case at all.

“I hope people come away feeling inspired,” Chris said. “We’re not trying to make any sort of activist statement. I’m not an activist. I’m a historian.

“If I can tell a story, and make people feel, then I’ve done my job.”

“Americans Interned: A Family's Story of Social Injustice” is on display at the Schack Art Center until Sept. 1. The Schack Art Center is at 2921 Hoyt Ave., Everett.

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