Chalk, mixed-media, and water-based pigment on paper

Since the beginning of my illness, fear has overpowered me many times. Then, I look into my Japanese ancestry and call forth the warrior there. The Samurai Helmets portray that warrior. I use them as visual mantras, empowering me with their certain strengths—the ferocity of a deep-sea eel, the longevity of giant oaks. They are meditations that help me focus on my inner strengths. They portray the will to survive.

Aulerich-Sugai crafted delicate and enigmatic drawings based on a personal system of symbolic representation. He used chalk on a ground of two-toned, water-based pigments, blending in smooth gradients reminiscent of traditional Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, The series draws on the tradition of ornamental men-yoroi and kabuto worn by samurai in feudal Japan, in which decorative elements referred symbolically to animals, mythical creatures, and family crests that represented strength. Similarly, Aulerich-Sugai’s masks and helmets refer to combinations of flora and fauna that embody the internal strength to defend and maintain his vitality. The jumping wolf spider with its multiplied vision and evolved sense of sight was associated for the artist with his attempts to see within, to better understand his own internal rhythms. The flying fish evade danger by rising above the surface of the water, while fern fronds represent rejuvenation. Yet the use of chalk in forming these images lends a sense of fragility to the otherwise militant headgear.

These works were displayed at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in 1991 in commemoration of World AIDS Day.