Northeast Mississippi Japanese artist exhibits work at Union County museum

March 1st, 2021     Community Featured News

Japanese artist Nobuteru Iwanaka is still striving to learn English but his artwork needs no translation.

The Union County Heritage Museum currently has an exhibit, Japanese Culture: Travel, Picture, Encounter, which features some of his creations.

They includes intricately detailed, brightly colored Japanese themes as well as pen and ink renditions of his travels throughout the world.

Now he works at Toyota Boshoku Mississippi but following his university days he was a tour guide and traveled to many parts of the world.

“I always drew my memories,” he said.

Iwanaka is entirely self-taught. As a child, he had pen and paper to play with rather than toys. He quickly developed skill through trial and error.

He soon picked up the habit of drawing any places he visited, usually in pen and ink.

Unfortunately, he has few examples of his artwork “Because I am always giving my paintings away,” he said.

The exhibit includes sketches of the Vatican, Castel Sant Angelo and Coliseum in Italy, Diamond Head in Hawaii and Machu Picchu in Peru, giving an idea of his travels.
“I toured Southeast Asia on a bike, crossed the desert on a camel and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro,” he said. He almost always gave his drawings to his tour customers as keepsakes.

Iwanaka said he did sometimes depend on artwork to pay for food and other expenses.

He told a story of being broke in Italy and, desperate for money, he waited until police were gone and waded into the famous Trevi Fountain featured in the film “Roman Holiday.” This is the fountain with the legend that says if you toss a coin in, you will return to Rome. If you toss two, you will find love and three means both as well as marrying.

He said he found plenty of coins, but none were Italian, which did him no good. “I put them back in the fountain,” he said (the coins go to charity). Fortunately, he was able to sell sketches, make some friends and survive until another friend was able to bring him money from home.

Iwanaka also spoke briefly about some of the techniques he uses, such as basing work on three primary colors, his use of shading and his ability to create tiny, sharp detail in watercolor (his work is all basically the size of a regular letter-size piece of paper, making the details in his Japanese traditional pieces all the more remarkable).

He met his wife while a tour guide because that is what she was also doing. They have three children.

The museum exhibit has a variety of items on display showing aspects of Japanese culture (several of which were provided by New Albany residents) and will be open to the public during museum hours.

The museum in trying to create a safe environment for the public does daily sanitation, asks that visitors wear masks and practice social distance.   The museum is located at 114 Cleveland Street in New Albany 38652.  For more information call the museum at 662-538-0014.

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