Foto Forum Santa Fe Award
Honorable Mentions 2021
My work addresses themes of race, culture, family, and Legacy and these images are a kind of family album, filled with friends and family, birthdays, vacations, and everyday life. At the same time, these images tell you more than my family story; they’re a window onto the Black American experience. As I document my son I am interested in examining his childhood and the world he navigates. At the same time these images show my own unspoken anxiety and fragility as it pertains to the wellbeing of my son and fatherhood. At times I worry if he will be ok as he goes to school or as he plays outside with friends as children do. These feelings are enhanced due to the realities of growing up black in America. He can't live a carefree childhood as he deserves; there is a weight that comes with his blackness, a weight that he is not ready to bear. It's my job to bear this weight as I am accustomed to the sorrows and responsibility it brings, the weight of injustice, prejudices, and racism that has been interwoven in our society and institutional systems for hundreds of years. I help him through this journey of childhood as I hope one day this weight will be lifted.
This series of work explores the overwhelming task of living and parenting during the pandemic. In thinking about the current climate, especially related to motherhood, I've been inspired by fourteen mountains with the highest elevations in the world, otherwise known as the Eight Thousanders. The Eight Thousanders are located in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in Asia, and their summits are in the death zone, with sitting elevations of 8,000 meters above sea level. The mountains reach heights requiring supplemental oxygen for human exploration, and the death zone is the point where the pressure of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life for an extended time span. Being the parent of two young children is challenging even in the best of times, but with covid-19, the difficulty of this role is exacerbated. What is so unique in this time is that it is trying on everyone, just in different ways. There are times in parenting young children when you feel like you need to come up for air or can’t breathe. Using found photographs depicting these fourteen mountains, I collage over the mountain images using colored lighting gels, producing works that amplify environmental impossibility, a metaphor of the physical and psychological weight of life under quarantine.
I showcase how my art practices has the potential for both meditative and cathartic recovery through the way of metaphorical expression. At the core of my art, I analyze the dominant ideologies and limitations of language, self-identity, culture, and shared human experiences. I use different mediums to reflect a range of subjective possibilities. Recent projects include “Don’t Tell Your Mom”, my personal traumatic experience of childhood sexual abuse told through a series of personal perspective photography and different alternative photographic processes.
Don’t Tell Your Mom. It relays the story about my trauma of childhood sexual abuse from a personal perspective. It finds its origins in my childhood memories, which were attempted to be covered up by the person who physically abused me. The words “don’t tell your mom” became the symbol for this experience of trying to erase my trauma. I grew up in a traditional Chinese family where there is a lack of sex education. In effect, there was a lack of awareness about self-protection for children, and we felt ashamed to talk about the word “sex” in public. I kept my secret of sexual abuse for 18 years until I gained healing and peace in making photos, then this body of work was born.
I used my body and different objects with symbolic significance through multiple art forms: the lumen print process, staged photographs, and sculpture installation as metaphors to euphemistically express my inner struggle, hopelessness, fear, and experience. This complicated process also created an experimental inner dialogue about traumatic memories of physical sexual abuse, and the potential of healing through photography as a visual language.