I painted Kimon Tiger in anticipation of 2022’s lunar new year. The Tiger in the painting holds Miss Shimane, one of 58 friendship dolls commissioned by the Japanese government in the late 1920’s. As predicted, the year of the tiger turned out to be more than just a little disruptive.
In 1927, as relations between the US and Japan soured, a missionary sought ways to promote peace and understanding between the two cultures. He organized a program in which children in the United States sent over 12,000 dolls to Japanese elementary school children. In return the best doll makers in Japan were commissioned to produce 58 exquisite friendship dolls representing the prefectures, cities, or regions which were then sent to the US. The program was a PR success. The dolls toured the US with much fanfare and made frontpage news across the country. Eventually they were distributed across the nation, acquired, and prominently displayed by regional museums and institutions.
Unfortunately, no diplomatic or cultural exchange could stop WWII. The dolls, were relegated to back rooms and dusty corners, neglected, and virtually forgotten. Most began to fall apart. But recently those dolls that have survived have been sought out and returned to their original glory. It’s a lovely example of how beauty, optimism, and humanity endured, and outlasted, violent times.
Kimon Tiger, 2021 Egg Tempera , 6.3” x 11.81” (Alter) Available @ La Luz de Jesus Gallery, L.A.