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"Living Treasures" of New York - Frank Taira (1913-2010)

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Frank Taira

(b. August 21, 1913, San Francisco, CA; d. July 4, 2010, New York, NY)

Frank Taira was born on August 21, 1913, in San Francisco, California. When his family returned to Japan in 1928, he decided, at the young age of 15, to remain in the United States to pursue a career in art. His father agreed to release Taira from his obligations as the eldest son, but advised him that he would not be able to support him financially. Undeterred, Taira became a "house boy," performing household chores for an American family in exchange for room and board while he completed high school.

A few years later, after winning $50 in a local newspaper contest, Taira was able to pay for his first classes at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco School of Fine Arts). Once a student there, the school's director arranged for Taira to continue his education on a full scholarship. There, he studied the academic style of painting and drawing from 1935 to 1938. In 1939, he exhibited at a juried show at the San Francisco Museum of Art as well as at the Oakland Art Gallery.

Taira was invited to prepare a one man show at the Museum of Art (now the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), but his budding career was abruptly interrupted during World War II, when he was sent to the Topaz, Utah Internment Camp from 1942 to 1944. Taira taught art in the camp and upon his release, moved to New York City.

Taira worked primarily in oil, although he has also worked in bronze, watercolor, and pen and ink. His powerful pen and ink drawings from the early 1950's document an 18 month stay in a TB sanitarium. Many of his oils have won prizes in juried shows. His work has been exhibited both in the United States and Italy.

Taira's body of work reflects his journey from his classical training through an experimental phase of semi-abstract use of shapes and colors and then his return to realism in the 1970's. After WWII, Taira decided to focus on providing beauty and peace through his art. The themes in his work reflect that decision.

Taira is recognized in numerous publications listing American and Japanese American artists. The most current listing will be in the fall 2008 publication of Chang, Johnson & Karlstron, Asian American Art: Starting from Here. Ca: Stanford University Press.

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For inquiries or permissions regarding the artist or the art, please contact D. Weinstein at d2calstein@earthlink.net or (212) 799-0664.

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