OREM She became quiet as she brought up the slide depicting a canvas full of white rabbits, set against a multicolored American landscape.
"I used to go by the barbed wire often and I knew that out there was Kansas," artist Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey told an audience at the Orem Public Library recently. "Out there was some kind of freedom. Out beyond where the rabbits could go, I couldn't go. So this painting is a real powerful one for me."
Havey paused slightly as she talked, the only indication that this artwork painted decades after the events it depicts is still saturated with poignant and occasional painful memories of Havey's life in the Amache Internment Camp in the southeast corner of Colorado.
Havey, then 10, and her parents, grandparents and younger brother were forced out of Los Angeles in 1942 soon after World War II began. The order came from President Franklin D. Roosevelt that those of Japanese descent living on the West Coast should be moved to internment camps.
Amache was the family's second camp after moving from the horse stables of the Santa Anita Race Track in California, where she watched fellow Japanese muck out stables so they could live there.
She now lives in Salt Lake City. Havey's artwork has been on display at the Orem Public Library at 58 N. State this month. The exhibit ends today.
Monday night, Havey shared her story that has come to life through the watercolor images of soldiers, skulls, search lights, orange mess halls, coyotes and the coveted Japanese Ichimatsu doll.
She clicks her digital presentation forward to a picture of a giant spotlight focused on a person in the middle of the Amache barracks.
That is herself, she explained, trying to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night, terrified that the guard who had spotted her would shoot her.
She said her husband suggested, years later, that perhaps the guard was doing her a favor by lighting the way for her.
"That just never occurred to me," she said with a chuckle. She can smile about it now."It's one of those stories that I have told a number of times so the fear of this has kind of left me," she said. "It's turned into more or less like a fairy tale to me."