I was born in 1936 in Onomichi, Hiroshima-ken, Japan on the inland sea. My father Masao inherited my grandfather’s kimono store and this is where I grew up. Because of his experience, my father dreamed that his only son should become a creative artist someday rather than succeeding him in “oldest son” tradition.
I studied art history and aesthetics at Kwansei Gakuin University from 1954-59. I graduated from the university with a B.A. in aesthetics. I attended the Otis Art Institue in Los Angeles from 1964-68, where I received a B.F.A. and an M.F.A.
Integrating reality with fantasy, humor with commentary, and history with the present became my challenge. My early watercolor paintings were inspired by Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. These paintings often focused on the clash of my two cultures- East and West. Series such as McDonald’s Hamburgers Invading Japan and 31 Flavors Invading Japan characterize some themes in my work of this time period. I was concerned about fast food homogenizing world tastes. Now we would say I was addressing cultural globalization, but this was the early 70’s- before that language or concept existed.
In the 1980s, my watercolors became large scale in an effort to depict the subject of AIDS, and I took my ukiyo-e derived paintings to a darker realm. Since the late 1990s, I have been producing large-scale narrative work addressing social and political issues, especially the abuse of children by priests. My recent large-scale paintings are inspired by Renaissance paintings but continue the narrative quality of Japanese woodblock prints.
I have been the subject of more than 70 solo exhibitions, many of which have traveled extensively, including those organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1980; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu in 1988; and the Yale University Art Gallery in 1998. In 1996 I was featured in a solo exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution and in 1997 at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.
My work is in more than 50 public collections worldwide, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D. C.; the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D. C.; the Tate Modern, London, England; the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland.