Hey, it’s been a while! Read on to find out one of the reasons why I’ve been busy this spring and check it out for yourself at the A Place of Her Own Show in the Bay Area.
See the pale orange book in the photo? It was hand-bound by my paternal grandfather, who also wrote most of the contents inside it. Called a zu pu, it contains our family tree, the history of the Hwang family’s migration from coastal China to Taiwan, and other stories and recollections by my relatives.
This spring, I’ve been taking a class called A Place of Her Own. It grew out of the work of Asian American Women Artists Association (I was part of the Hungry Ghosts exhibit in 2012). How to describe A Place of Her Own? Led by San Francisco surrealist painter and found object artist Cynthia Tom, it’s part art class, part self-help, through the lens of Asian American culture and feminism. One of the themes of the class is examining beliefs that hold us back — whether they come from our immediate families, our culture, society at large, or other sources. What would life look like without these ideas? The course culminated in creating a found object art project that expresses our vision of a place where we can flourish.
As I thought about my “place”, the family genealogy book kept coming to mind. While the Chinese diaspora has always been meticulous with records of predecessors, the family tree is a patrilineal one. It’s hard to find out information about female ancestors. What did they dream of? What did their daily lives look like? Since I’m a writer, the book as metaphor holds tremendous power to me. Just as with any book, the zu pu is a reflection of many choices of what is deemed important or irrelevant.
When I was in Taiwan last year after my paternal grandmother passed away, I browsed the many meticulous photo albums at my grandparents’ apartment. I wished I could have taken them all home with me. Fortunately, my father scanned the pictures from the books and gave them to me on a flash drive. Looking at the photos was like peeking into parts of my relatives’ lives that I had never seen before: my grandmother as a young woman; my aunt practicing piano as her little brothers looked on; my mother playing baseball.
My installation, Hidden Narratives, deconstructs the concept of a zu pu and reimagines it with many females, young and old, past and present. I’ve included historic photos, family charts, as well as my own writing which explores women’s lives. Yesterday, I set it up at J-SEI in Emeryville and felt so many loose threads coming together, physically as well as emotionally. I hope it will inspire other people to think about inclusion/exclusion, remembering/forgetting, and visibility/invisibility.
Here’s how to see my project, along with the artwork of over 20 other women…
A PLACE OF HER OWN Art Exhibition
May 12 – June 24, 2018
1285 66th Street
Emeryville, CA 94608
Gallery Open: Sundays and Saturdays 12 – 3 p.m., Weekdays 2 – 5 p.m. unless otherwise noted below
Opening Event: Saturday, May 12, 2018, 2 – 5 p.m.
Lecture: Saturday, May 19, 2018, 3– 5pm, Gallery open 12- 5 p.m.In Search of Miki Hayakawa: A Forgotten Japanese East Bay Artist, a lecture by ShiPu Wang, presented by Friends of Topaz, Japanese American Women Alumni of UC Berkeley, and J-SEI.
Artist Talk: June 3, 2018 – 2 -4 p.m., Gallery Open 12 – 5 p.m. 2018 workshop participants share their process behind the art. See artists’ list at A Place of Her Own website.
Lecture/Film: Sat. June 9, 2018 – 1 – 3 p.m., Gallery Open 12 – 5 p.m.
Detained Alien Enemy Glass Kimono, Art & Film by PLACE’s Reiko Fujii. Presented by Japanese American Women Alumni of UC Berkeley (JAWA) and J-SEI.
Closing Celebration: Sunday, June 24, 2018 12-3 pm, Gallery Open 12 – 3 pm