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What are you?

I know, I know, I should have recorded this conversation between myself and my artwork back in art school. But, I didn't, so I'm doing it now.

My artwork gets a lot of confusion and questions about what it is.... and so do I. The questions and comments in the video are a sampling of the most frequent and some of the stand-outs from over the years. I did forget to include one that I've been told repeatedly:

"I love Asian women."

Most memorably, it was once followed with, "See, I have one tattooed on my arm."

Thanks, friend.

The artwork that I am in conversation with in the video is a self-portrait. It is a portrait of me and a portrait of a cottonwood tree on the trail near my house - one that I climb when I need to center myself and remember that I am held in community. She is golden and she is in shadow simultaneously. This is akin to the liminal space of being an Asian woman in the United States, invisible and objectified, desired and hated, all simultaneously. The twining of racism and sexism is all too familiar for many Asian-bodied women.

For many years, I attempted to remove myself from my artwork. The association felt too vulnerable and revealing. Some works read as very 'feminine', and I felt exposed. Many associate the pieced work and striped patterns of the fabric sculpture with traditional Korean craft and patterns, such as 보자기 (bojagi) and 한복 (hanbok). This revealed my cultural loss and incompleteness. Now that I have embraced my vulnerability as strength, I can only lean in. It is impossible to erase myself, nor do I want to anymore. I am tired of being erased socially and through self-erasure. It leaves me and my work open to projection that is unwelcome and interpretation that is couched in the desire of the viewer. It is also naive to pretend that my body and my person - my presence as 'the artist' - is somehow not "susceptible to aesthetic and cognitive control as any other artistic product." (Art Forum, Jan 2022)

So, here I am. Here we are. Please keep your oriental girl tattoo to yourself. If you'd like to have a conversation, we are listening.


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