My paintings represent a personal narrative through specific memories, from the hysterical to the morose, that explore the influences of Chinese diaspora, trauma, and inverted expectations within my blended and interracial family. As a Chinese immigrant who relocated throughout America, I have become attuned to expressions of kinship that supplant our prejudices against what is unknown or different. Within the tradition of painting as a preservation of history, my works intimately document the tension between belonging and alienation that defines identity in subtle, overlooked moments. I confront innate reactions toward the Other, not as stranger, but as kin.
I employ oil paint, the quintessential medium of Western art history, to ascribe its formality onto incidental occurrences. The slow-drying, malleable nature of oil paint allows me to elongate an instant into a continual exploration of its poignancy. I reconstruct memories from photographs taken by phone, at times using the whole or just singular elements of note, immortalizing fleeting scenes. The vibrancy of my work demands attention, and I compose my figures not in flesh tones but in relation to their environment. In moments of heightened affinity to an individual, I paint the figure in a luminous yellow ‒ a powerful rendition of the color typically cast onto my Asian identity. I am interested in how we perceive reality through the different layers of emotion, knowledge, and circumstances that color our understanding of ourselves.
I observe reflections of myself in others, making each of my paintings a type of self-portrait. Initially, I examined how the essential parent-child relationship shapes identity. My family was one of few words, and I grew up in a silence that seemed accepting only when we were joined by the presence of nature. My landscape paintings capture vantage points experienced by my parents and myself in these moments of understanding. In my continual examination of identity through relationships, I started to include the figures of family members in my work, beginning with my husband, the most intimate relationship in my life.
I depict the convergence of my two families, introduced through marriage, from seemingly distant worlds ‒ China and America, reserved and gregarious, patriarchal and queer ‒ as a vibrant, sometimes uncomfortable, alluring portrayal of home that is universally recognizable. The compositions reveal moments of intense physical and emotional belonging, or lack thereof, at times bringing separate but parallel experiences into one. The flat figures in my paintings contrast against their lush and intricate environments ‒ the reduction of the individual against the complexities around them. I render figures through their contours, which makes their identity discernible only to those who know them intimately. This anonymity creates the space for the viewer to inhabit the varied dynamics of belonging ‒ awkwardness, hostility, acceptance, camaraderie ‒ turning a personal history into one that is universally accessible.