Amid the named and captioned figures in the photo album, the blurred face of a girl gazes out at us. The face is distinctive and strangely familiar, and yet our memory draws a blank. The angles of her forehead, the shape of her black hair, the way her eyes taper at the outside edges -- these all describe somebody unique, a girl who must have been part of the family constellation, but she can't tell us who she is. Even so, her image appears, subsides, and resurfaces as I paint, and I gradually begin to recognize her.
I found a photo of a girl who existed before I was born. She is standing on the pedals of an adult's bicycle. The wheels are stationary, but soon she will be tall enough to balance and operate the bike, then the wheels will begin to spin and accelerate, taking her forward into time and infinity.
Born in Japan in 1930, Pearl grew up in Honolulu. In 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Empire, triggering the United State's entry into World War II. Pearl's parents were detained and sent to Crystal City, an internment camp in Texas, which held American civilians of Japanese, German and Italian ancestry until the end of the war. Basing its case upon dubious evidence, rumour and cultural stereotypes, the US government accused Pearl's mother, Ishiko, of spying for the Japanese military and colluding in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The above image is a still from rare film footage of a young Pearl. She died at age 22.