JSNH&B home • Fall 2013 • vol. 5 no. 2

Chiura Obata

Kimi Kodani Hill


In February 2006, Kimi Kodani Hill, the granddaughter of the famous Sierra Nevada artist Chiura Obata, spoke on the legacy of her grandfather’s work to the Sierra College class named Interdisciplinary 6: The Sierra Nevada.Topax Moon book cover

Chiura Obata (1885-1975) loved the Sierra Nevada. It inspired countless sketches, paintings and writings. The theme that became his greatest source of inspiration—indeed, a consuming lifelong passion—was Yosemite. Many say he came into his own with his Yosemite watercolors of 1927 and the woodblock prints that were made from them in 1930. Much of his vibrantly colored works of the Sierra were finally published in Obata’s Yosemite (Yosemite Association, 1993). An Obata painting graces an entrance of the recently remodeled DeYoung Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Obata was one of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans forcibly relocated from their homes, work, and communities and interned during World War II. He was born in Japan and came to California in 1903. A master in the traditional Japanese sumi ink and brush technique, he taught at the UC Berkeley from 1932 until 1954, except for his years of internment. Kimi Kodani Hill

Kimi Kodani Hill is the granddaughter of Chiura Obata, and the Obata family historian. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the California College of Arts and Crafts, she has served as the consultant for numerous Obata projects and exhibits. Kimi Kodani Hill was invited to Sierra College to discuss the role that the Sierra Nevada played in the art and inspiration of her grandfather. Hill is the author/editor of Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment (2000) and Shades of California: The Hidden Beauty in Ordinary Life (2001).

Since this presentation in 2006, Kimi Kodani Hill was a featured interview in Ken Burns’ award-winning documentary series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009).

The following was part of a classroom presentation. As a result, there may be references to charts, diagrams, photos or other unseen imagery.

This presentation was originally a “SierraCast,” a podcast from the Sierra College Center for Sierra Nevada Studies website, the Sierra Nevada Virtual Museum, which was online from 2005-2012.

This presentation begins with Kimi Kodani Hill describing how a trip to the Sierra Nevada can be a deeply emotional experience.

This presentation is 67 minutes. Introduction read by Gary Noy, Director emeritus of the Sierra College Center for Sierra Nevada Studies and former Editor-in-Chief of the Sierra College Press.

Photo credits:

Kimi Kodani Hill – courtesy of Heyday Books
Topaz Moon book cover – courtesy of Heyday Books