My work in ceramics and mixed media collage revolves primarily around issues of family and my Asian-American background. Cultural marginality and blending, tradition vs. Westernization, language and translation are key elements in my work. Since the birth of my son in 1987, I have been drawing inspiration from major events in my family’s history, the day-to-day challenges of parenting, and my own childhood memories of being raised in a minority culture in the United States. I use the image of a child as a symbol of innocence, potential and vulnerability.
Making art is a function of living, a material practice that allows me to examine the ordinary and illuminate the familiar. My creative attitude and working process are largely informed by the inherent displacement and fragmentation characteristic of contemporary life and the landscape we now inhabit, against a diminishing wilderness. Allusions to aftermath and anachronism reflect my fascination with the experience of time. Finding that text and sound are potent collaborators, I now make short time-based media projects alongside painting, which constitutes the core of my studio practice.
In my artwork I create visual parallels between rational and cosmological worlds through constructing and deconstructing, layering and erasing, scraping and marking, unraveling and reconnecting. I incorporate techniques of drawing, painting, sewing and weaving. I started using thread in my work more than twenty years ago. I liked the practical properties of the material, thread’s use to put things together, to mantle, to unify. Threads also soothed my desire for fluidity: I could manipulate them to create mass, sculptural forms, to penetrate the canvas or just leave them loose. I would sew different layers of colored yarns to create chromatic filters where underneath you could see shimmering shapes.
How we form narratives out of patterns that recur daily and how we process diurnal time in relation to memory and place have preoccupied me since early on. In my artwork I imagine multiple ways in which narratives may form out of fragmented knowledge by constructing and deconstructing pieces of repetitive documentation.
In a process–oriented approach I use a wide range of materials from my studio and from every-day life — such as found objects, drawings, paintings, and photographs which depict autobiographical fragments from my environment. Together, these disjointed pieces form a holistic image, widely varied in scale — from small scale collage paintings to monumental immersive installations. In either format I aim to create hybrid mindscapes in which the viewer is placed somewhere between the real and the imagined, the organic and the artificial, landscape and topography.
While on the whole I frequently allude to the fragility of our Eco system and complexity in our civilization, the layered fragments are like coded messages or excavated memories which present new clues. Each layer documents a particular moment in time and only up close the viewer may discover the content underneath, invited to choose their own perspective.
In “Nature, Fashion & War,” I have created large-scale charcoals and tapestries that draw connections between the human desire to want more of everything versus the destructive impact our consumerism has on the environment and the survival of our species. The colorful, multi-layered, fashion-inspired tapestries in “Nature, Fashion & War” contain objects that were on their way to becoming trash. At one time these items were desirable status symbols or served a functional purpose. By smashing, wrapping, and sewing old shoes, clothes, toys, jewelry, cans, and other debris into pliable surfaces, then combining them with carefully painted and drawn images of politicians, nature, people, and monsters, I create topographical narratives that comment on the systems destroying life on earth.
These works are my answer to author Naomi Klein’s assertion that “No Is Not Enough.” This exhibition speaks to the catastrophic effects unregulated industries are having on us, the role human nature plays in that, our coping mechanisms, and strategies towards a healthy inhabitable world. My titles often reference books and articles from notable journalists like Naomi Klein, Jane Mayer, Sharon Lerner, Brene Brown and Arundati Roy. Since the recent re-invention of “fake news,” I have set out to create mammoth illustrations interspersed with giant word balloons inspired by these authors’ well-researched works. These works are intended to illuminate the intricate web of violence, greed, love and beauty that comprise human nature, in order to help tip the future towards our positive instincts and away from those hurling us towards extinction.
I am a strong believer in place, and how a region, community and a home will shape who you are. The place I know, where I was raised, is the Black Belt region of the American South. It is how I was raised, as a Southerner and as a Jew in a small southern town, instilled with belief in family and tradition that motivates me to document the place I call home.
Over the past year, I have been focused on producing a body of work that reflects how I feel both as a woman and an American Indian living in the 21st Century. In this body of work, I have strived to illustrate how I feel about the ancient legacy of my heritage while at the same time acknowledging the modern day and age. Each piece reflects my understanding and interpretation of Caddo tribal culture and the fight to maintain a place for it in today’s world. With the election of a new president, climate change and social oppression, it is more important than ever before to have a unique voice, express it, and strive to make it heard. In my work I try to explore themes of “the other,” cultural appropriation and history. With my work, I hope to create awareness and address issues that affect people who share a similar story. Through my installations, I hope to tell a story both of how one understands self and culture, but also what defines these ideals in America today.
Art and Earth define us as human beings. The rupture of connection with either renders us senseless and therefore only brutal. The language of art is sensual. It can stir the heart. It can bypass rational, linear processes. Art can be a transformer. The idea that imagination begets empathy and is awakened by the senses has shaped all that I have attempted as a citizen artist.
Through my work, I am interested in building a vocabulary that will one day tell a new story: a new mythology that restores mystery, beauty, silence, and imagination as central to our co-existence. My visual language favors archetype and allusion. Like dreams, it is a code simultaneously familiar, layered, and elusive. The Koan, a Buddhist teaching tool that takes the form of a paradoxical question, is another model for my work. Insight follows contemplation and the willingness to lose what one knows.
The materials I use are both substance and symbol. As substance they are ordinary, simple, and sometimes found yet within them, there is beauty. As symbols, they do not comfortably stand for one thing. On the scent of something large, they dodge the straight line of equation. The exacting repetitive gestures associated with the crafting of much of my work make the process a meditation; however, the parallel thought flow, or its absence, that accompanies these gestures also infuses the work.
The record of time is evident though silent in my work. Slowly taking form through accretion, thousands of horsehairs are individually threaded through hundreds of holes drilled in vines or tiny dowels. In the White Luminous Room, each of the 1500 ten foot long strands are made by tying and gluing tiny bundles of hair to a long thread. The liquidity of plaster is recorded in its hard celestial surface. The flow of ink is remembered by the contraction of the washi paper in the drying. Every ring of ink on each of the 80 hammered lead pans is a record of the evaporation of that single pool — concentrated, diluted, rinsed, repeated — until the right mark is made.
The Anthropocene is now — the first epoch defined by the impact of one species — ours — on the planet and all the systems that have spawned and supported what we have named “life.” The Cantos are my witness and meditations on now.
I am a conceptual mixed media artist, addressing issues of colorism and race. I seek to break stereotypes and address issues related to my life. My artwork is steeped in oral history and is an expression of the narrative. As a storyteller, I impart conceptualized stories about the “other” in society. I view myself as a vehicle for ancestral stories to transcend history and remain part of the historical record. The canvas of my artwork is fabric which I age and imbue with conceptualized images of a forgotten part of the American story. Using images and text, I embed the cloth with the hopes and visions of my ancestors, particularly those whose stories have remained invisible. Whether woven or stitched, every time my weft crosses the warp or my needle pierces the cloth, it reaches through another layer of scorched earth that slavery has left behind. In this way I attempt to reframe critical issues of race.