Happy Maki by Patrick Fitzgerald

SUSHI. I guess have had my odd fascination with it for more than 25 years now.  At  23, armed with an MFA in painting and no job, I accepted an invitation to teach English in Japan for one year. Coming from Kansas City, the experience of being airdropped into a small city in the outbacks of Japan was a culture shock I was not prepared for.  In my free time,  I wandered the streets and alleys of my new home Fukui, exploring the seemingly endless offerings of mom and pop food shops. On the outside of almost all restaurants sat plexiglass display cases containing convincing, plastic replicas of the meals they were serving. They consisted of artfully composed  dishes of dismembered sea creatures in all manner of Japanese dishes. Over time, something about the combination of the subject matter, the presentation setting and the hot sun created an unconscious and involuntary revulsion to the plastic raw fish sitting behind these display windows. But there was no escaping it. Sushi was everywhere I turned—at the breakfast, lunch and dinner tables, and at all events great and small where one was expected to eat what was served.  In the end, I found myself  spending close to a year subsisting on a diet of mostly white rice and miso soup and simultaneously withering to a fraction of my (then) slight frame. I have since recovered handsomely. Thank you.

Fifteen years later, I gave sushi another shot. I tried it, I liked it. I really liked it. Maybe my distant and romantic memories of Japan (some of them augmented by now, I’m sure) propel me now to hunt for new sushi experiences wherever my wife and I go. In fact, the tradition of eating sushi is now part of our lives’ milestones. My wife and I had sushi on our first date. I proposed to her over sushi (well after, not over it).  We had sushi to celebrate the news of each of beautiful daughters’ arrival.

And now I find myself drawing it. A lot. These hundreds of drawings celebrate the creative American spirit by exaggerating and parodying  the variations of sushi invented here over the past 20 years. The “Volcano Roll”, the “Firecracker Roll”, the “Wolfpack Roll”, the “Mastercard Roll” and countless other versions of non-traditional sushi nonsense delight me. I hope you enjoy this exhibition of drawings as a lighthearted but sincere tribute to Japanese culture and American creativity.

The great Japanese artist Hokusai called himself “The old man crazy about drawing.”

Maybe I’m just crazy about drawing sushi. (and eating it too).

—Patrick Fitzgerald website