By Luciano Marano
In the spring of 1943, a wounded artist crafted a simple black-and-white painting from the hospital bed of the prison camp where he was being detained and almost accidentally created the first great image of the post-Pearl Harbor Japanese internment.
Nobody else could have done it. The man was an artist, an intellectual and a detainee himself; the perfect convergence of skill, interest and experience to immortalize the nation’s then-ongoing shameful misstep.
Then, nearly 75 years later and in a once more tumultuous political climate, the painting ended up becoming just another piece in a pile of stuff — some trash, some treasure — at a curbside Bainbridge Island Rotary auction donation site. It was saved from indefinite obscurity, or worse, by mere chance.
And now, after tireless research and an investment of great time and effort by a select few, who recognized early on the potential importance of this particular donation, the where, when, why and how the picture was made is at last known.
We know who painted it. We know how it became, at least temporarily, famous. But neither of those things are the star of this story. That role, oddly enough, the identity of the mysterious donor, remains unknown — for now.