To All Persons is an installation piece that examines the historical injustice of the Japanese American internment of World War II. Both of my paternal grandparents were children when they were incarcerated in accordance with Executive Order 9066. The internment was fueled by racist “yellow peril” fearmongering that demonized and dehumanized Japanese Americans. Approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and lives by the U.S. federal War Relocation Authority, which was set up in 1942 to “take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.”
To All Persons transforms War Relocation Authority notices and origami balloons into a memorial for those who were confined in the U.S. government’s internment camps and detention centers during WWII. The origami forms spilling over the orders are signifiers of innocence and ingenuity while symbolically standing-in for the victims of this systemic act of cruelty and dehumanization. While the origami formation does not overtake the orders in volume, it is able to disrupt their cold indifference through color and dimensionality. This piece is built around the laborious process of folding and breathing life into hundreds of origami paper forms. The very physically taxing act of remaking and installing this piece in different spaces has become a way of continually honoring and preserving the narratives of my family, my people, and myself.
Circle of Togetherness
Circle of Togetherness, 2015
sumi ink on newsprint, 1st edition
each painting measures 18" x 24"
As a meditative exercise, Circle of Togetherness is an endless series of paintings, each composed of a singular circular brush stroke. The act of painting is a means of expression and as such my artistic practice is a mode of both intellectual communication and emotional reflection. Until now the majority of my work has functioned as an exploration of historical trauma. It is true that I have gotten some cathartic release through photographing and painting my beliefs and experience, but my primary focus has been on educating non-Asian individuals, combatting the concept of “post-racial America”, and memorializing the history of my family. I have not dealt directly with my pain. Through Circle of Togetherness I am striving to seize hope, reach peace, and claim answers for myself.
Circle of Togetherness is what I have decided to call the body of work I’m producing through the act of meditative Japanese Zen Buddhist painting. While the creation of an enso may seem simple and therefore trivial, it is in fact a highly draining act of self-awareness. The ‘art’ is not the mark itself, but rather it is the process I undergo to form the mark. The circles are representative of my desire for healing. I am conflicted within myself. I find pride and strength in my Asian identity, but I am afflicted by oppression and harmed by daily reminders of white society’s bastardization of Asian history, culture, and tradition. In my haste to check racial inequity, I have not considered the adverse effects my work has had on my emotional health. I seek to remedy this. I desire tranquility.
I am (not)
I am (not), 2015
3 wearable buttons
each measures 6" in diameter
I am (not) is a series of three wearable photographic buttons through which I explore the complexities of identification and communal ties. I am (not) looks at the dynamics of identity by bringing into question the conflation of race and nationality. The photograph in each button is from a time in my childhood when I became more aware of my racial identity as an Asian American person and an “other” in the U.S.’s white dominated society. The language of “I am” is a direct reference to “I am American” sentiments made by Japanese Americans in defense of their innocence and right to live undisturbed across the nation during World War II. The images take the form of large 6” wearable buttons as reference to the much smaller buttons worn by some non-Japanese Asian Americans who were effectively forced to self-identify as their specific Asian race so as to avoid persecution.
The performative aspect of the piece challenges viewers to contend directly with my presence as an “other” in America. The duality of identification and non-identification that the buttons allow me plays on the anxiety I have over never truly belonging – of never being enough of my various selves to be accepted in any one space. The size of the buttons points to the spectacle of this divide and is meant to confront viewers with the reality of racism in the U.S.
you say I am
you say I am, 2015
origami paper on photographic print
each print measures 4" x 5"
I am am I
I am am I, 2016
set of 3 miniature books, mixed paper and ink, 1st edition
each book's cover image measures approximately 2.5 cm x 3.5 cm
of Japanese Ancestry
of Japanese Ancestry, 2016
mixed media installation (origami paper, family belongings, iPad)