Japanese American National Museum > Hibi (Hisako) Collection > Limitation

Image / Limitation

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Hibi, Hisako
Date Created and/or Issued
Publication Information
Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Contributing Institution
Japanese American National Museum
Hibi (Hisako) Collection
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Unframed stretched canvas. Image of a guard tower with a mountain to the right and a field with rabbits on the left. The colors are gray, brown and green.
Entitled "Limitation" this painting seems to refer directly to the fact that the camp perimeters were delineated by a barbed-wire fence. Internees were forbidden to go beyond the fence and were monitored by armed guards who surveyed the area from guard towers. There were times when internees were allowed beyond the fence, but this was only under special circumstances. The fences were superfluous because the camp itself was located a far distance from any town so that there was no real chance of escape. In fact, there are no cases of attempted escape at any of the concentration camps. In this work, Hisako Hibi paints a corner of one end of the camp grounds. In the distance, the low barbed-wire fence is visible with a guard tower at the left. One of the red signs which were placed along the wire fence is present in this painting as well. The signs were warnings, not to people who might approach the camp from the outside, but to the internees themselves. They warned against straying too close to the fence and arousing the suspicion of the guards. One of the most tragic events at Topaz was the killing of an internee for walking too close to the fence. A guard supposedly warned the man, who did not follow his order probably because he was hard of hearing. The guard shot the elderly man who later died. This painting does not directly reference this event, but it is concerned with the confinement of camp and the role of the fence and guard towers. A flight of birds in the left corner is perhaps also a symbol for the desire to be free, to go beyond the camp grounds.
Painting oil on canvas
Concentration Camps, Topaz | mountain | guard tower | rabbit

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