“Thank you, I’m fine, don’t need no help …” the old man living on the street in Manhattan says. I saw one of his paintings in the exhibition of Japanese art from the US internment camps. Traumatised, uprooted, just living through and for his art, “Mirikitani, Grandmaster Artist” he introduced himself in the beginning of the documentary film called “The Cats of Mirikitani” (I highly recommend, the trailer can be seen here).
A while ago I read about art as therapy. After watching “The Cats of Mirikitani” I tend to believe that making art can well be the last activity remaining, when everything else in a creative person’s life has collapsed. And the best thing to bring one back; in the end the homeless “Grandmaster Artist” was saved. Drawing cats and scenes from the internment camp, while keeping a safe distance from what he calls “commercial art”, Mirikitani stubbornly refuses to take any money except for his paintings.
A simple message like “make art not war” sounds very different, when someone with his life experience says it, while in the background the twin towers are on fire.
P.S.: Jimmy Mirikitani passed away October 21, 2012, at the age of 92.