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Living Treasures of New York - George Mukai

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George Mukai

George Mukai was born in 1919 just outside San Diego, CA. His father struggled against Alien Land Laws that constantly threatened his security as a farmer. After Pearl Harbor, Mukai and his brothers enlisted in the military. The rest of their family was broken up and detained along with 110,000 fellow Japanese Americans in concentration camps across the nation for the duration of the war. Mukai joined the 442nd Regiment, an all Japanese American unit that by the end of the war had received the most decorations and sustained the highest casualties. Because of Mukai’s military service, he was allowed to visit his imprisoned family members under supervision.

After the war, Mukai attended the Gepson Art Institute in Los Angeles, CA, under the G.I. Bill. He grew interested in Realist paintings that would “pop” off the canvas. In 1950 he moved to New York where he joined the Art Students League and worked restoring Chinese antiques in exchange for studio space. During the war, Mukai collected material and equipment and assumed that he would paint about his war experience. Once he returned, however, Mukai felt that he had experienced the war enough already and did not need to paint it. He focused on still-lifes and streetscapes and only painted two versions of one war painting, “In a Twinkling of an Eye.”

Mukai was a member of the Japanese American United Church in New York City, where he met Eugenia Sumiye Okoshi, also a painter, and who he later married in 1976. At 94, and now a widower, he currently resides at Isabella House in upper Manhattan.

For more information about the artist or the work, please contact Margret Mukai at mkmukai@gmail.com

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