Janice Shimamura, the daughter of Tadashi Sato, attended the breakfast and exhibition preview the museum held for lenders and donors, as well as artists and their families. When asked if she had a favorite work from her prolific father’s oeuvre, she didn’t hesitate to point out Falling Leaf. (Pictured above is Janice Shimamura and her husband Mark with Falling Leaf on the right. On the left is Sato’s painting Surf and Water Reflections.)

On view in Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West is Tadashi Sato’s moody 1966 painting Falling Leaf, a nearly monochromatic work depicting a featherlike leaf that seems to have white wings—almost like a little angel.

She has a particularly personal connection to the work, and seeing it in the show was a sort of rediscovery. The day President John F. Kennedy was shot, she remembers her father watching the coverage on the television. As he followed the news, a leaf fell outside the living room window, and Sato took it as a sign, explains Shimamura. The result is the work you can now see.

Family friends purchased the work. After the new owners passed away, their son donated Falling Leaf to the museum, unbeknownst to Shimamura, who had been looking for it. “I’m glad to see it’s in good hands,” she said in the gallery.

Looking at the painting, she said “It has very special meaning. President Kennedy was a strong, good influence [on my father] and he was very saddened by his death.”

Pictured in the image above:

Tadashi Sato (American, 1923‒2005). Surf and Water Reflections, 1969‒70. Oil on canvas. Honolulu Museum of Art, Gift of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, 2011, and gift of the Honolulu Advertiser Collection at Persis Corporation, 1974 (TCM.1974.1.239). Reproduced by permission of Jan Shimamura.

Tadashi Sato (American, 1923‒2005). Falling Leaf, 1966. Oil on linen. Honolulu Museum of Art, Gift of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, 2011, and gift of Grant R. Jones, 2003 (TCM.2003.24). Reproduced by permission of Jan Shimamura.