Photos: Anika Schneider
A narrative figure painter who draws on lived experiences, memory, and family photography. With an Asian mixed female identity, she resides in a highly racialize body that also exists in a liminal state.
What are you trying to communicate through your work, and how does heritage play in it?
My work aims to visualize the intangible and unseeable themes within the family, such as the change of time, changing perceptions within memory, visualization of memory, and loss within families. Heritage plays a role because familial themes are the pillars of my work. Both heritage and cultural heritage are so intertwined with the meaning of family. While I’m trying to get at less specific notions in the meaning of family within my work, I think it is hard to talk about anything within the sphere of a family without heritage being linked to that.
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
I don’t think my work explicitly comments on social or political issues. As a woman artist who paints representative artwork dealing with the domestic and dealing with family, including female relationships with family, and images of children, it touches on political and social issues within the art world. There is less representation of women artists and artists who deal with themes that are more typically thought of as “women’s art,” such as family, female relationships, and interior spaces. Just by making that work and seeing its value and hoping that others see the value in that work too, it is inherently intertwined with social and political inequalities and unequal representation within the visual art world.
What work are you most proud of or is the most meaningful to you?
I’m most proud of the work that I made for my master’s thesis; a 20 foot long and five-foot-high painting that depicted a montage of memories and images to create a panoramic space of my childhood home’s kitchen area and family room.
I think it’s one of the most interesting pieces I’ve made visually because it is so vast. The length and the composition of it encourage interaction. You can’t really see within one visual plane and must walk along it. This forces its ties to the narrative and makes the narrative even more important, like a scroll; it can be walked along and read from left to right or right to left. While my work is figurative, I’m usually not interested in the body as the subject of my work. I’m interested in narrative and storytelling and using figures to do so and tell those stories. I think it’s one of my most interesting pieces because it offers a panoramic view, but unlike how panoramic are used traditionally, panoramic landscapes or military images of war, this is a panoramic of a very intimate domestic setting. It’s not just a panoramic that treats everything equally in one expanse. It focuses on the idea of ‘how do we visualize memory, and how do memories tell these stories about ourselves?’.
How do you engage in the community?
Within the art community, I follow many local Minneapolis artists on social media to know what’s going on with them. I am also involved with Minneapolis College of Art and Design, my alma mater, and stay updated with events at larger art institutions such as the Walker and MIA. For example, I go to gallery openings and other art projects or creative led initiatives. In my spare time, I teach classes/workshops and participate in groups involving women artists and artists of color.
Recently, in solidarity and support of protestors and the Minneapolis community, I have been sending my original prints to anyone who matches my donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund and other relevant organizations.
What more do you want to see in the art world right now?
I want to see more support specifically for emerging artists, artists of color, and artists who are not trying to be “full time” artists. I don’t actually believe there is such a thing as “full-time” artists. I think artists who have a job in whatever, not even teaching art, but in the service industry, or finance, or whatever else they might do, and maybe even have a full-time job, are still artists.
A majority of support goes to people trying to be “full-time” artists. I think supporting artists who don’t have a lot of time solely to make art is important too because they make interesting, meaningful art and tie to the community in different ways.
What would you like to say to other creatives?
I think I would want to remind other creatives that working all day in the studio for 18 hours a day works for some people, but it doesn’t work for everyone, so you don’t need to feel pressured to do that. Even when you are doing everything else in your life, if you’re dedicated to being an artist and a creative, you’re generating ideas, and you are using your whole life as research for your artwork. How much you work and when, you don’t have to feel bad about it, about not working specifically on making all the time, and you just have to find what works for you.