Art, on heritage

Having gone through a rigorously conceptual art education, my art practice has evolved tremendously in terms of medium and form over the past 4 years. Looking back on my body of work, one of the largest threads that emerged was reflecting on my relationship to my heritage. I was born to an immigrant family, and am the only person on both sides of the family who was born in the United States. I grew up in a predominantly-white neighborhood and school system, in which I was constantly the 'other.' Before any of these experiences became the basis of my political consciousness, they were personal, embarrassing, and difficult to express. My art practice has been one avenue by which I wrestle with and make sense of it.

 

Intertwined (2015)

  113 ft. of hand-braided rope. Bedsheets, tablecloths and curtains dyed red; trash bags; and Chinese scarves. Gold confetti stuffing. 

 

113 ft. of hand-braided rope. Bedsheets, tablecloths and curtains dyed red; trash bags; and Chinese scarves. Gold confetti stuffing. 

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Pan Chang knots are ubiquitous symbols of Chinese culture. Woven from a single cord, historically they represent social ideas of unity and continuity of life. As a second-generation immigrant I have failed to either be a part of my heritage or successfully adopt American individualism. By reconstructing a massive, hand-braided Pan Chang knot, I replicate pulling apart my relationship to Chinese history and culture. As I attempt to extricate one part of the rope, I cope with what happens to the rest of it. I am bound but resistant, recognizably ‘foreign’ but not ‘authentic.’

 

Unbroken, Again (2013)

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An exercise in futility: I broke a plate, plaster cast each shard in beeswax, and joined the wax shards back together.

Growing up, my brother and I were raised by my grandmother, who moved to the US from China at age sixty-four while my parents worked. She was unable to speak English, without a social group, and in hindsight, was severely depressed. Growing up, starting as early in my memories as age four, my grandmother would periodically throw tantrums: crying, screaming, and threatening to commit suicide. I remember feeling so uncomfortable and helpless, trying desperately to blot out the sounds of her wailing, waiting for the sound of shattered dishware to signal the worst of the tantrum was over, and wanting nothing but to fix her suffering, to make her stop crying.

Unbroken, Again is my attempt to reconcile my relationship with my grandmother. It is the fulfillment of my desire to "fix" situations, a mediation on the nature of healing and reconciliation, and a way to achieve closure on my ultimate failure to make peace with her before her death the prior year.

 

Between the Neon (2012)

Acetone transfer prints, 15" x 11"

I began making these prints as a response to visiting my hometown in China over the years and witnessing how quickly these same places would change between each visit. Places that were primarily fields have been paved over by skyscrapers and neon lights, flooded with air pollution and suffocated by flocks of people. Simultaneously, this transformation of China's exterior has resulted in a transformation of the interior: the people of China have become increasingly materialistic at a level that exceeds even that of my American peers, losing the values I were taught by my parents to be culturally Chinese.

These prints began with a print of an image of idyllic, traditional Chinese landscape repeatedly reprinted on with images of Chinese landscape throughout time as it industrializes. The series was reached through experimentation: ripping printouts, dousing ink-saturated sections and allowing the run-off to drip, alternating textures when layering, etc. The surface of the prints have been repeatedly worked back into and abused, both with acetone and white monoprints. The unplanned process of making these prints aims to reflect the damage done to initial landscape, and to convey how a haphazard progression can lead to a loss of the initial.