News / USA

Asian-American Artists Explore Their Identity

Smithsonian exhibit examines what it means to be an Asian-American

'Shimomura Crossing the Delaware' is a knock-off of the iconic 19th century painting, 'Washington Crossing the Delaware.'
'Shimomura Crossing the Delaware' is a knock-off of the iconic 19th century painting, 'Washington Crossing the Delaware.'

What does it mean to be Asian-American? An exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington features the work of seven Asian-American artists who attempt to address that complex question through their art.

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program have joined together to mount a major exhibit showcasing the work of seven Asian-American artists.

Each piece in the “Asian American Portraits of Encounter” exhibit is an expression by the artist of what it means to be Asian-American.  

Each of the artists was given an entire exhibit room, or hallway, in which to display their work, which includes photographs, drawings, paintings and even a short video.

One of those artists is Roger Shimomura.The third-generation Japanese-American has spent his career fighting racial stereotypes through his art.

He has paintings featured in the exhibit, in which his own image takes center stage.

He describes "Shimomura Crossing the Delaware" as a knock-off of the iconic 19th century painting, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” which depicts the first U.S. president at a historic moment during the American Revolution.

“The idea was to place myself as George Washington and hopefully raise all the questions that would go along with it, such as, ‘What if Japanese-Americans were in a position in this country where one might have been George Washington?’ I mean, that is such a stretch to think of that. But I like the absurdity of that extreme.”

The painting is part of a series born out of Shimomura's experience of being relocated with his family to an internment camp during World War II, when it was argued that Japanese-Americans were a threat to the nation.

'StripeTease' by Tam Tran explores the artist's changing relationship to her own developing identity.
'StripeTease' by Tam Tran explores the artist's changing relationship to her own developing identity.

“It’s really insulting to a person like myself who spent two years behind barbed wires during World War II, and who served in the military for several years, to be assumed as being a foreigner,” he says

Shizu Saldamando was born and raised in California but her art makes strong references to her Japanese and Mexican heritage; two ethnic groups which have faced discrimination.

In her series of portraits, the mixed-media artist has combined photographic images of her friends taken during casual social situations and presented them on a gold leaf background on wood panels to create a unique body of work.

She hopes that people viewing her art, “will question what they see as normal, and question their own stereotypes or assumptions about who they see in the paintings.”

Fine art photographer CYJO was born in Seoul, South Korea, was raised in the U.S. and is now based primarily in Beijing. She is a self-described Kyopo - the Korean term for ethnic Koreans living in other countries.

In 2004, she started photographing Koreans from all around the world. Two hundred forty full-body portraits make up CYJO’S KYOPO Project which is on display at the exhibit. Sixty of the images are enlarged and displayed individually.

Actor Daniel Dae Kim's portrait by CYJO, is one of 240 full-body portraits of Koreans from all over the world.
Actor Daniel Dae Kim's portrait by CYJO, is one of 240 full-body portraits of Koreans from all over the world.

Zhang Chun Hong, or Hong Zhang as she is known in the United States, is a Chinese-born artist living and working in the U.S. She uses charcoal images of long, straight hair, presented as scroll paintings, to examine her identity as an Asian-American woman.

Several artists in the exhibit focus on the challenges of transitioning from Asia to America.

Performance artist Hye Yeon Nam who came to the U.S. from Korea to study art, depicts that struggle in a four-part video self-portrait titled "Walking, Drinking, Eating, and Sitting," where everyday functions are major challenges.

Chinese-born artist Hong Zhang's charcoal images of long, straight hair, examine her identity as an Asian-American woman.
Chinese-born artist Hong Zhang's charcoal images of long, straight hair, examine her identity as an Asian-American woman.

Satomi Shirai’s photographs reflect the feelings of dislocation she experienced after her move from Japan to New York City in 2004.

And Tam Tran, who moved from South Vietnam with her family to Memphis, Tennessee, in the early 1990s, explores her ever-changing relationship to her own developing identity in a series of self-portrait photographs called Accents.

Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American program, says the exhibit is not designed to make visitors arrive at any particular conclusion but rather to serve as a conversation starter:

“This show is a terrific opportunity for people who want to understand what an Asian-American portrait of encounter would feel, sound like in some instances, and have that experience, and then walk away from that, hopefully transformed and asking more questions about that topic,” he says.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs