Known for his screen printing and abstract expressionist paintings, Arthur Okamura (1932–2009) was a Japanese American artist who rose to prominence in the 1960s as a book illustrator and member of an artist community based in Bolinas, California.
Born in Long Beach, Okamura grew up in Southern California with his family. During World War II, he and his family were detained at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and later transferred to the Granada War Relocation Center in Colorado, where they were incarcerated for three years. Okamura was 10 years old when he entered the “internment camps.”
After the war, his family was released and moved to Chicago. There, Okamura began his art career at a silkscreen poster studio at age 15. After graduating high school, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago, Yale School of Art, and University of Chicago. He held his solo first exhibition at the Frank Ryan Gallery in Chicago and was later awarded a fellowship to study painting in Mallorca.
In 1956, Okamura moved from Chicago back to California. While he initially lived in San Francisco, he eventually settled in Bolinas. Once established in the artist community there, Okamura illustrated multiple books of poetry by friends. In 1971, he created the pastel drawings for the television movie “The People.” In addition to working as an artist, Okamura taught at the California College of the Arts in Oakland for 31 years, retiring in 1997 as professor emeritus. During his retirement, he wrote and illustrated magic trick books, including “Paper Propeller, the Jumping Frog, the Spinning Quarter: And 38 Other Amazing Tricks You Can Do With Stuff Lying Around the House.” Today, his work can be found in multiple prominent art museums and at the New School at Commonweal in Bolinas, where he served on the board of directors.
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