Yellow Bowl Project

This guide will help you find resources on the WWII internment camps and Asian and Asian-Americans in the United States in conjunction with Interdisciplinary Project at MCLA Gallery 51 for Fall Semester

Freedom From Fear Yellow Bowl Project

Interdisciplinary Project at MCLA Gallery 51 for Fall Semester

Project Website:

This guide will help you find resources on the WWII internment camps and Asian and Asian-Americans in the United States.

About the Project:

"Scary as a bunch of tea bowls" – Setsuko Winchester

The goal of this project is to bring awareness to the history of WWII internment camps and more broadly to a history of Asian and Asian-American racism in the United States. 

During the Second World War, the US Government opened ten internment camps to incarcerate 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry – two-thirds of them American citizens - who had been forcibly removed from the West Coast.

In 2015, Winchester — an American-Japanese, former NPR journalist, ceramicist — began a journey to visit all the remains of these camps, most of them now desolate and lonely ruins. In her studio in Massachusetts she had hand-pinched and glazed 120 bright yellow tea bowls: yellow, to represent the “Yellow Peril,” as Asians were euphemistically referred to at the time, and tea bowls, to represent man’s humanity. Her plan was to photograph arrangements of these bowls in each camp, to create a conceptual art project which she called the “Freedom From Fear/Yellow Bowl Project.” The intent of this project is to inform and educate. The hope is to diffuse fear not spread it.

It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who created the camps — the same FDR who had famously made the iconic Four Freedoms speech. Her belief, after much research, is that “Japanese-Americans,” imprisoned in these ten camps wrongly and unjustly, were about as frightening as the tea bowls she planned to display. It is widely agreed today that there was absolutely nothing to fear from them. And it turns out — the irony at the center of her art project — that they had much to fear from the US Government. ​

About the Artist:

Setsuko Winchester, born in New York City of Japanese immigrant parents, worked as a journalist, editor and producer at NPR on shows like Morning Edition and Talk of the Nation before moving to Western Massachusetts in 2006 to pursue a life-long interest in ceramics and the visual arts. She also helped start the local newspaper, The Sandisfield Times and contributed as managing editor and staff photographer. In 2015 those interests of art and journalism converged in a work called the Freedom From Fear/Yellow Bowl Project as a means of telling a story through clay. The story is first and foremost a personal journey of discovery, second, a journey into American history and third, a physical odyssey that included two epic trips covering over 16,000 miles across the US to some of the most remote parts of the country where 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were once imprisoned during World War II.

About the G51 Exhibition:

On View September 29 – November 19

Gallery 51 will host an exhibition of the photography series from Setsuko Winchester’s  Freedom From Fear/Yellow Bowl Project - the first exhibition of the complete photo series documenting the artist's journey (physical and metaphorical) to the sites of WWII internment camps. At each site, the artist arranged and photographed 120 yellow tea bowls (one to represent each 1,000 interned Japanese-Americans). 

In addition to the 10 internment camps located in remote and desolate western landscapes, the bowls have been photographed at:

• The Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, New York
• The Four Freedoms Rotunda at The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA
•The footsteps of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC
•The Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in Washington DC
•The FDR Library in Hyde Park, NY