The exhibition was organized in cooperation with George Nakashima Woodworker, S.A. Mira Nakashima Yarnall, daughter of George Nakashima and author of the exhibition’s companion book, was curatorial consultant.

This retrospective exhibition included profoundly beautiful and useful wooden objects: chairs, tables, benches, cabinets and lamps, by George Nakashima (1905-1990).  Complementing George Nakashima’s woodwork were paintings and drawings by his friend Ben Shahn, framed by George Nakashima.

George Nakashima, a native of Spokane, trained as an architect at the University of Washington (BA) and MIT (MA). He traveled the world during the 1930s pursuing his career, and in 1941, began designing and building furniture in Seattle. In 1943, following his internment as a person of Japanese ancestry, he settled in New Hope, Pennsylvania where he established his studio. It is now operated by his daughter, architect and designer Mira Nakashima-Yarnall.

George Nakashima’s commissions included furnishings for the late Nelson Rockefeller and interiors for Columbia University, Mount Holyoke College and the International Paper Corporation. He had exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.; the Nelson Atkins Gallery, Kansas City; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Nakashima was honored with the Gold Medal of Craftsmanship by the American Institute of Architects (1952), named a fellow of the American Craft Council (1979) and received the Hazlett Award from the State of Pennsylvania for outstanding crafts achievement (1981). In 1983, he received the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor and Japanese government bestowed on him by the Japanese Foreign Office, and in 1989 his was the first in a series of America’s Living National Treasures exhibitions at the American Craft Museum in New York.

The author of the classic book The Soul of a Tree, George Nakashima established The Nakashima Foundation for Peace, creating peace tables — symbols of human desire to achieve a more peaceful environment — to be installed throughout the world. Currently, they are found in New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the City of Human Unity in Auroville, India and the Russian Academy of Art in Moscow.

Three videotapes played continuously throughout the run of the exhibition in the adjacent Multi-Media Education Center: “George Nakashima: Reflections of a Woodworker,” “Mira Nakashima: Nakashima Reading Room” and a preview of a film being produced by John Nakashima: “George Nakashima Woodworker.”

Related Events

An illustrated Lecture and Book Signing by Mira Nakashima-Yarnall concluded the Members’ Reception held on November 22.

At the conclusion of its San Diego presentation, the exhibition traveled to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Ketchum, Idaho (June 9-July 31, 2004) and the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles (September 12, 2004-January 2, 2005).

The exhibition sponsors were Charmaine and Maurice Kaplan, and was funded in part by the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program.

Collection Source: Mingei International Museum

Complemented by Ben Shahn Paintings and Drawings framed by George Nakashima


On View: Nov 23, 2003 - Jun 30, 2004

Curator: Mira Nakashima Yarnall

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