Keisho Okayama was born April 23, 1934 in Fujiidera-shi, Osaka, Japan, the middle son of Reverend Zenkai Okayama, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist priest, and Tatsuko (Hattori) Okayama. In 1936, his father brought the family to the United States to serve a congregation in Watsonville, California.
After the outbreak of war between the US and Japan, the Okayama family was first forcibly evacuated to Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno, then to Topaz War Relocation Center, an internment camp in central Utah.
Internment had a deep and enduring effect on Okayama that resonated throughout his life. Prejudice against Japanese Americans remained strong for many years after the end of WWII. Because of this, he felt alienated from the country of his birth, and experienced confusion and guilt about his sense of obligation to its culture. His split identity as a Japanese American created enormous psychic stress. Art was one way that Okayama dealt with these feelings.
Okayama studied art at UCLA, where he received a BA in Art in 1962, and took figuredrawing classes at Los Angeles City College. He met Lauren Fisher in 1967, when she modeled for an art class. At the time she was an art student at UCLA and modeled for parttime income. They were married in 1969.
Between 1971-1995, Okayama was an adjunct professor at the College of Creative Studies at UCSB, East Los Angeles Community College and UCLA. He was a sensitive and charismatic teacher who maintained friendships with many former students.
For over 20 years, beginning in the early 1970s, Okayama was involved with the Senshin Buddhist Temple Kinnara Gagaku group. He played the hichiriki (a double reed Japanese flute), crafted his own instrument, and also designed and crafted cases for hichiriki, sho, and bugaku masks.
Okayama was prolific, painting and drawing throughout his life, producing work in pencil,sumi, watercolor, charcoal, oil pastel, and acrylic paint. Around 1980, instead of using stretcher bars, he began pinning the canvas to the wall. He preferred painting on canvas that was not framed and stretched because he felt the material itself, and the way it draped on the wall, was an important element of the overall feeling. A certain sense of color and space was consistent in all his work. His later works distilled and concentrated this, creating a kind of mystical light.
He previously exhibited in JACCC’s George J. Doizaki gallery in 1982 with Hirokazu Kosaka, in 1987 with Richard Yokomi, and a solo exhibit in 1990.
Okayama died on April 4, 2018.
For further information, see Okayama's website: www.keishookayama.com