Opening Doors – An Interview with Sarah Fukami
By: Samantha Quee
On April 26, 2017 the Children’s Museum Of Denver unveiled a poignant public art exhibition that celebrates Denver’s diverse community called Opening Doors. Featuring local artists, the exhibit is a series of 11 open doors that invite visitors into the Museum with a message of “all are welcome here.”
Asian Avenue magazine met one of the exhibit’s artists, Sarah Fukami. A Japanese-American artist, Fukami shares her experience with Opening Doors and her artistic journey in Denver.
AAm: Let’s start off with a little introduction. Are you a Denver native?
Sarah: I was born and raised in Denver, and I also graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the University of Denver. I will always love this city, and although I hate the traffic, I’m glad others are realizing its greatness as well.
AAm: Before “Opening Doors,” what were some of the other art shows or exhibitions that you have been involved in?
Sarah: Just earlier this year, I was part of an exhibition called “Nice Work if You Can Get It” at RedLine, where I am currently a resident artist. It was my second annual resident show, as my time there will be concluding later this year. My next exhibition is a group show during the Month of Photography at SYNC Gallery, followed by a printmaking show at Art Gym Denver. I also recently finished a residency there in January.
AAm: I understand that your work revolves around the formation of identity and perception of history, particularly in relation to the immigrant experience. Can you elaborate about your immigrant experience and how it has shaped you?
Sarah: I am a multicultural individual, and identify as hapa. My great grandfathers immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. My Japanese family worked on a farm in Kent, Washington and my Italian family owned a grocery store in Cicero, New York. I revere their stories and struggles, and to this day, I am in awe of the life they built; not for themselves, but for us. It is so important to remember that immigrants are the heart of this country and we would be nothing without them—and that we are all human beings despite the social constructs of race and nationality. This message comes across most clearly in my work concerning the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, my own family having been imprisoned indefinitely without trial. I hope that my art can promote awareness and prevent these atrocities from occurring in the future.
AAm: Can you tell us more about your involvement in “Opening Doors” and the philosophy behind your artwork?
Sarah: I was so pleased to be contacted by the Children’s Museum for the exhibition. It’s a wonderful gesture to literally welcome all members of the community using physical doors. I knew it was a great opportunity for me, as my work has a very similar vision. My piece focuses on the idea of “barriers.” It is a common motif in my work, representing either actual fences or the cultural isolation of populations.
AAm: As an artist, what is your definition of “art”?
Sarah: Call me a Dadaist, but I believe everything that is intended by the maker as art, is art. Each perspective of the materialization of art is unique, and it’s important for people to understand the inherent subjectivity of visual art. I think that art should be accessible to all, and it shouldn’t be limited by cost, material or geography. You don’t need an expensive gallery or even the opinions of others to create. Art is culture, and anyone can be a contributor.
AAm: Who inspires you the most?
Sarah: I am most inspired by the artist community here in Denver—both close friends and those who I admire from a distance. I am constantly being pushed to improve my own work by seeing their success, drive and ideas. It’s not a competitive environment; we support and celebrate each other. It’s self-assuring to have other artists around you, all working to put Denver and ourselves on the map of the national art world.
AAm: What role do you think artists serve in society?
Sarah: Artists maintain an ironic balance between struggling to support ourselves financially, and feeling the responsibility and need to create. Society doesn’t support artists adequately, even though we know from history that art is a vessel for culture. We do not only create work for our own purposes, we are often driven to take what we have made, and contribute that art to the greater population. My own work seeks to address social justice issues and to shed light on what may have been previously unknown. I feel it when I am working, that I am uncovering something much greater than myself. Art is a duty to be fulfilled