Biographical / Historical
George Tsutakawa (1910-1997) was a Japanese American painter and sculptor based in Seattle, Washington. Born in Seattle in 1910, he moved with his mother to Fukuyama, Japan, at the age of seven. While there, he took an interest in art, and was influenced by traditional Japanese practices. Returning to Seattle at age 16, he continued his education in art at the University of Washington. His interest in sculpture led to numerous commissions for fountians worldwide, a form that combined his experiences in both the Pacific Northwest and Japan. During his career, Tsutakawa designed, built, and installed over 70 fountains.
Following a 1987 interview with Tsutakawa conducted by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, the Archives' West Coast Regional Center took the opportunity to further document Tsutakawa's experience as a Japanese-American artist. Fourteen hours of video were recorded over a three-week period in the fall of 1988, centered around the Fountain of Lotus, a sculpture Tsutakawa was commissioned to design for a new art museum in his childhood home of Fukuyama, Japan. Tsutakawa is accompanied by members of his family, including his wife Ayame, his daughter Mayumi, and his son Gerard.
The video crew for this project included Paul Karlstrom (Archives of American Art West Coast regional director), Ken Levine (director and videographer), and Dan Gadd (videographer). The project was made possible by a Smithsonian Research Opportunities Grant and additional private donations, as well as an equipment loan from Sony.