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Department ofArt and Art History

Priscilla Otani

Priscilla Otani

Do You Remember

Michelle Obama, in her 2020 Democratic Convention speech, defined empathy, as “[t]he ability to walk in someone else’s shoes; the recognition that someone else’s experience has value, too.” I’ve been thinking about how challenging it is to do just that, during this period of great political polarization, daily media hysteria, and unrest among civil society.  "Do you Remember?" depicts two women on the opposite ends of the socio-political spectrum, having a laugh and sharing a snack of Japanese rice crackers. The dominant colors of red, white, and blue were selected deliberately. "Do You Remember?" was inspired by a real-life Facebook exchange among my classmates. A woman posted a bag of Japanese crackers that she purchased to celebrate the removal of a leg brace and received comments from classmates all over the world. They not only wished her well, they shared their memories of rice crackers from their time in Japan. One classmate’s memory inspired another’s story until the comment section was filled with good cheer. It was a warm-hearted exchange among people who ordinarily stand in great opposition to each other’s political beliefs. Through this piece, I hope the viewer will consider how they might develop empathy with others through shared experiences, past and present. 


Otani Do You RememberDo You Remember, 2020
Mixed media collage
18” x 24”
Courtesy of the Artist

About the Artist

Priscilla Otani is a mixed media artist, curator and owner of Arc Gallery in San Francisco. Her works have been shown in both national and international exhibitions including: Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration, Rise: Empower, Change and Action, Against Trumpism, women + Money, Social Justice: It Happens to One/It Happens to All, Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art, Choice, Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze, Control, and Banned & Recovered. Otani has curated and managed exhibitions for Arc Gallery, Pacific Center for the Book Arts and Women's Caucus for Art. Her exhibition management includes F213, F*ck U! In the Most Loving Way, Liberty, Metamorphosis, Resistance, and Dark among others. She was president of the National Women's Caucus from 2013 - 2015 and currently serves on the board of the Northern California Women's Caucus for Art. Otani received her BA in Psychology and Asian Studies from Mills College in 1974 and MA in Japanese Literature from Columbia University in 1976. Born in Tokyo, Otani is a bi-cultural, Naturalized United States citizen.