Left and Leaving Statement
Left and Leaving
Left and Leaving is a very personal series of work that explores the choices made and the roles assumed by Chinese immigrants, their descendants, and how that relates to the myth of the Model Minority.
The term “Model Minority” coined and surfaced in popular media for over 50 years, is often prescribed to Asian minority groups in the West who are frequently cited as having success in academics and economic status. Though seemingly complimentary it has also been viewed as a term that dehumanizes those belonging to Asian minorities, minimizes individual contributions, and at its worst, it is used to create a wedge between other racial minority groups – particularly in the rise of Asian hate stoked by the COVID 19 pandemic.
If I am being honest to my personal Chinese immigrant experience, the tenets and ideals of the Model Minority are criteria I am complicit in applying to myself. In Left and Leaving the choice of choosing the ideals of the Model Minority as a means of belonging are explored as are the costs of those choices. My hope, as aligned with the broader context of my creative practice, is that this exploration and subsequent discussion will surface meaningful commonalities between the Chinese immigrants’ choices to achieve belonging and that of the viewer of the work. It is my deeply held belief that what we all have in common in our humanity far outweighs the details we cling to.
The works being developed for Left and Leaving take their visual inspiration from the memorial photos used in Chinese cemeteries, and the symbol rich masks used in Peking Opera. The neutral, documenting aesthetic of the memorial photos represent the parts of self that have been allowed to pass away in order to belong. This contrasts with the colorful “masks” that have been painted on. These painted “masks” inspired by the makeup application of Peking Opera, have been further transformed by the emotional charge of abstract expressionism to symbolize the emotional truth of what it feels like to strive for the ideals of the Model Minority. Nude torsos are used as the representative under layer of the works to provide an honest and accessible depiction of each subject whose experience is being explored to visualize the different relationships with the myth of the Model Minority, and in more universal terms, the shape of the journey to belonging.