The Farm, 1934, oil on canvas by Kenjiro Nomura
A farm scene with green trees would seem to be a positive view of the American scene, but Kenjiro Nomura's painting suggests a hidden threat. Clouds gather and darkness fills the barn and sheds while the foreground road is in shadow. Not a figure or animal is to be seen.
In the Seattle area where Nomura lived, many of his fellow Japanese Americans made their living as fruit and vegetable farmers. Since 1921 they had been subject to anti-alien laws that prevented foreign-born Japanese Americans and other aliens from owning or leasing land. Those born in America who could own farmland still suffered from prejudice. During the Great Depression many Japanese American farmers barely managed to survive, living only on what they grew themselves. It is no wonder that Nomura’s view of a farm during this period is disquieting.
As other Americans emerged from the Great Depression during World War II, Nomura and other Japanese Americans were victimized again by being removed from their homes, businesses, and farms to be interned in camps. Like his PWAP painting, Nomura's images made in internment camps feature dark skies and deep colors that evoke the shadow of injustice.