Statement of Intent
The city, with its sprawl and diversity, history and mythos, is the kind of place where big ideas have to be tested by individual experience. Here, art is important because it can give care and attention to what is easily glossed over; it can draw something personal from what is public and offer it back. Through drawing and painting architectural scenes around New York City, I am able to explore connections between emotion, physical place, and cultural context. I believe the Social Practice Studio Art MFA program at Queens College would provide ideal support for this work.
Two artists who have influenced me are Edward Hopper and Guy Debord. Hopper’s paintings evoke emotions from unassuming architectural scenes, and Debord’s dérive transforms walking into an action that subverts pathways of habit and utility. As I walk through the city streets and find my own meaning in them, my awareness and curiosity grows about issues that create uneven cultural pockets. This leads me to create art that points to a bigger picture and integrates the perspectives of others.
My current body of work focuses on New York City Chinatowns. I grew up in Chinese communities in Texas which, though nurturing, were largely insulated and ignorant of the broader history of Asian-Americans. Getting to walk the streets of historic Manhattan Chinatown, Flushing, and other immigrant-rich neighborhoods broadens my understanding. In my drawings, I depict buildings and street signs that advertise an ambivalent ‘Chineseness.’ I use multiple drawing materials to mirror the way different materials and styles are thrown together over an ongoing processes of change. I would like to continue exploring how identity, dreams and ideals -- or even social barriers -- are expressed and created in these neighborhoods.
I’ve had the privilege of working with other communities of color through Thrive Collective, an artist group that leads collaborative mural projects in schools lacking art education. For one project, I asked Bronx middle schoolers how they felt about their neighborhood. Many struggled to respond to abstract ideas or became paralyzed by self-doubt. I realized that efforts to bring change require an understanding of cultural differences, like differences in ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, and even institutional constraints. The students walked through their neighborhood differently than I did, and the resultant mural reflected how we learned from one another. This learning posture is something I would bring to and continually cultivate in future projects.
Joining a program that values diversity and social engagement at a university in the heart of Queens would further develop my creative work; it would also allow me to complement my art education with electives in Urban Studies and involvement with the Asian/American Center. I believe I have a unique perspective to contribute as an Asian-American artist focusing on local Asian-American communities. I’m excited to join like-minded creatives and activists at Social Practice Queens, including Gregory Sholette, to address systems of power within the culture industry. I look forward to working together with them to create art that enriches and empowers others.