Arthur Okamura, RIP

This morning I received an email from Stephen Beal, President of California College of the Arts, bearing sad news:

FROM PRESIDENT STEPHEN BEAL

Dear CCA Community,

I’m very sad to report the death of Professor Emeritus Arthur Okamura. He passed away on July 10 near his home in Bolinas. He was 77.

Arthur taught at CCA for 31 years. Upon his retirement in 1997 he was awarded the distinction of professor emeritus. A master teacher, he inspired generations of artists with his impassioned commitment to his work. Although “retired,” he taught a weekly art class at the New School at Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, and was working on a new series of paintings at the time of his death.

Born in Long Beach, California, Arthur and his family relocated to Chicago after World War II. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the 1950s he came back to the west, eventually settling in Bolinas in 1959. He was a prolific painter who also worked in screenprinting and drawing. His work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. You can read more about his remarkable life here.

A celebration of Arthur’s life is planned for later in the summer. We will apprise the community of the details once they are confirmed.

We have lost a very important member of the CCA community. In his 31 years at the college, Arthur was an influential mentor to hundreds of students and a great friend to his fellow faculty members and staff. He will truly be missed. On behalf of the college, I extend my sincere condolences to Arthur’s family.

Sincerely,
Stephen Beal
President

Arthur Okamura was my teacher for “Introduction to Screenprinting,” my first year at CCA. I was timid in my approach to this medium, and Arthur didn’t exactly take the pressure off. One day he came up behind me saying anxiously, “What the f— are you doing? What the f— are you doing?” Well, I was probably letting the ink dry on the screen, or something equally idiotic. But I learned to love the medium enough to take another screenprinting class with another wonderful teacher, Malaquias Montoya.

Arthur was the graduate advisor to a fellow student, Gayle Antokal. She is enormously talented, but had not yet hit her stride when she had a solo show of her work on campus. Arthur chastised her, saying “You are making stew when you should be making souffle!” I’m happy to say that Gayle now makes the most exquisite “souffle.” Her mentor would have been very proud.

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Israel Recognizes the Righteous: Wilm Hosenfeld

The 2002 film The Pianist was nominated for seven Academy Awards and earned three, the Oscar for Best Direct (Roman Polanski), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Adrien Brody) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood). The movie tells the true story of the survival of pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew, beginning with the onset of World War II.

One of the people who came to the aid of Mr. Szpilman was a Nazi officer, Captain Wilm Hosenfeld. Mr. Szpilman had written to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, and also in his diaries that “in November 1944 Hosenfeld helped him find a hiding place and that he provided blankets, food and moral support.”

On Monday, February 16, 2009, Yad Vashem posthumously honored Mr. Hosenfeld as Righteous Among Nations, a recognition bestowed on men and women who helped the Jews during the Holocaust.

Mr. Hosenfeld’s diaries revealed “his growing disgust with the regime’s oppression of Poles, the persecution of Polish clergy, abuse of the Jews and, with the beginning of the ‘Final Solution,’ his horror at the extermination of the Jewish people,” according to Yad Vashem.

The Soviet Union arrested Mr. Hosenfeld at the end of the war. His sentence of life in prison was commuted to 25 years. He died in a Soviet prison in 1952.

See Also:
German Officer Made Famous in ‘The Pianist’ Named as Righteous [Bloomberg.com; February 16, 2009]
Nazi officer who saved Jews honored [International Herald Tribune; February 16, 2009]
German officer of ‘Pianist’ fame honoured in Israel [AFP; February 16, 2009]