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Munio Takahashi Makuuchi; Poet, Artist Known for Origami

June 06, 2000|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Munio Takahashi Makuuchi, a poet and artist known for dark etchings and lighthearted origami inspired during his childhood years in World War II detainment camps, has died at age 65.

Makuuchi died May 29 of a heart attack at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., several days after undergoing heart surgery at the hospital's Heart Institute of the Desert.

Makuuchi made more than 200 drypoint etchings, a technique in which a steel point is used to scratch designs onto a copper plate to form grooves that are filled with ink. Many depicted large images of people or birds.

His art has been shown at the National Gallery in Washington, the Portland Art Museum, Elvehjem Museum of Art in Madison, Wis., and the Gruenwald Graphic Center at UCLA.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 22, 2000 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 8 Metro Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Makuuchi detention: An obituary of poet and artist Munio Takahashi Makuuchi that ran in The Times on June 6 said he was confined in a Japanese relocation camp during World War II. In fact, Makuuchi was in a U.S. government internment camp and a labor camp, both in Idaho.

A few months before his death, Makuuchi had finished work on an etching, "Moon Catcher," that will be part of the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Portfolio honoring that state's 150th birthday this year.

"He had a deep sensuality. You weren't sure what he was saying. Everything was open to interpretation," said Warrington Colescott, professor emeritus of art at the University of Wisconsin, who taught Makuuchi when he was a graduate student.

"He used a mixture of Oriental and Occidental forms. There was a blending of racial characteristics, a blending of species and a blending of images," Colescott said.

Discussing Makuuchi's lithograph prints, the Ethnic Newswatch of the International Examiner noted in 1996: "At the core of his art is his philosophy that all the people of the Earth must get along to save the planet."

Born Howard Takahashi in Seattle, he was confined from age 7 to 11 in a Japanese relocation camp in Minidoka, Idaho, and in a labor camp in Twin Falls, Idaho.

"It was there that I became utterly fascinated by flying paper airplanes. For with them, I could soar over barbed-wire fences and machine-gun towers to places one could only dream about," he wrote on his Web site,

Combining that fascination with traditional origami, he created "Aerogami," fashioning planes or dragons or eagles, to express his lighter side. Art and poetry that reflected his darker side were published in "From Lake Minidoka to Lake Mendota." His poems often mentioned "the knothole gang," the group of boys whom he befriended in the Idaho internment camp.

At 20, he took his mother's maiden name, served in the Army and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado.

He earned master's of fine arts degrees at the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin and taught printmaking in Wisconsin and in Nigeria.

After several heart attacks, he returned to Seattle about six years ago, "homerunning like a salmon to headwaters, scuffed and scarred," he wrote.

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