This Was The Place
Click on a name to see a particular artist’s statement and image gallery. Click on the center of any image to bring up a larger view.
My work is currently heavily based on my geological research. I derive most of my source material from my time studying Geological Science throughout college, including maps, stratigraphic cross-sections, and even microscopic depictions of minerals. I am specifically using my research as a case study to think about the broader world of science, its power systems, and possible inaccuracies. While my sources are scientific in nature, I often combine my research with abstract concepts and visual elements within my art.
Essentially, I view geology and other sciences as artistic and malleable processes that can become biased by the human hand and ego. In order to evoke this dichotomy within my art, I am taking the images and maps from my research and further manipulating them to create my abstract compositions. Often, I will take a source image and distort its shapes and lines using very fluid and sometimes gestural strokes, evoking the human hand. I then use a combination of muted and fluorescent/almost psychedelic colors to express an unnaturalness, a contradiction to the organic structures. The way that I change my geologic images is very important within my work. Adapting colors and constructing new forms, for me, is an intuitive process that I feel is vital to the act of painting as a whole. Additionally, I have recently been experimenting with the interaction of gesture and instinctual mark-making within my map-like pieces. I paint in oil and draw with colored pencil and graphite on canvas, which also brings certain aspects of artistic tradition and history into my works, especially when thinking about who has had the power to record and make science throughout history.
In my practice, I have found that I am most motivated by pieces that are both visually and scientifically interesting. Specifically, structural geology (the study of the three-dimensional distribution of rock units with respect to their deformational histories) and mineralogy (science dealing with minerals, their crystallography, properties, classification, and the ways of distinguishing them) have recently interested me. In addition, visually, I find the linear and somewhat two-dimensional quality of maps (topographic and stratigraphic) extremely intricate and beautiful. Sometimes I find myself more intrigued with the shapes and compositions of maps rather than the actual information they seek to display. Furthermore, maps also have the ability to give incite to broader human motivations and their implications, which often become a vital driver of my pieces.
“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”
– C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
The greatest influence on my work is the death of my mother when I was fourteen. Her loss is my artistic narrative; expressing and understanding my journey with grief and how we as human beings process how unfathomable death is. I aim to recreate some of the physical and emotional spaces my mom and I shared together in my art. There is liminality in my life that comes from being connected to someone who is no longer here, and I aim to illustrate that relationship through my creative process.
Grief is often impossible to explain with words. I engage with a type of automatic drawing to express this emotion. In doing so, my pen directs my path. In my experience, grief is there even when you don’t notice it. It affects your mind, your emotions, and the way you move through the world. In order to convey that, I let whatever was happening inside my mind come out onto the paper, while trying not to think too literally. The resulting compositions are much like grief: hidden yet prominent. These lines are the product of my emotions telling me how they manifest in a 2D space. By using a small scale, these pieces allow for an intimate expression of my emotions. This series is an exploration of the way my grief is visualized and how my relationship with it has changed throughout my journey.
Color is also an important component. As Josef Albers states in The Interaction of Color, “…one and the same color evokes innumerable readings.” The way colors interact with each other can also have a profound effect on how they are experienced. Albers further states that “Colors present themselves in continuous flux, constantly related to changing neighbors and changing conditions.”
The simple act of drawing is an incredibly powerful healing tool. I have found the visual language to be a conduit for the scattered thoughts when words fail. Practicing a meditative ritual of drawing has been a means of catharsis and a way to create visual symbols of the fears and truths I have confronted in my healing process.
I produce chromatic, evocative, and graphic digital imagery. My work examines the relationship between color and emotion by designing fictive narratives around the subjects that I select. The selection process is based on physical attributes or ongoing connections discovered through the personal bonds that develop between myself and my subjects. I am interested in the concept that color influences mood, and the calming or energetic reaction from various color combinations.
I am as much of a creative director as I am a photographer. I actively engage in imaginative conversations and collaborations with hair, makeup, fashion, and set designers. Before I make the picture, a large part of the work is already complete.
Inspired by artists such as Gregory Crewdson, David LaChapelle, and Vogue creative director Grace Coddington who create carefully constructed spaces, so too are my sets staged with every element serving a specific purpose in the development of a narrative.
Additional image credits:
Diner Girls, Models: Alexus Brown, Neyana Eurquhart, and Ella Baker, Clothing Designer: Chloe Calloway, Creative Director: Sydney Wood, Assistant Director: John Vance, Hair and Makeup Artists: Montia Daniels and Jasmine Wilson
Yaochen, Model: Yaochen Shen, Gloves and Neck Piece: Nitara Rexana, Hair and Makeup Artist: Jasmine Wilson
Hannah, Model: Hannah Kepple, Designer, Styling, Creative and Production Direction: Sydney Wood, Makeup Artist: Agata Karaś, Hair: Naomi Shelby Lynn, Production Assistants: John Vance and Sam Gault
Alaysia and Nyasia, Models: Alaysia Lima and Nyasia Sade, Makeup Artist: Jasmine Wilson, Creative Direction and Styling: Sydney Wood, Production Assistant: Xenna Smith
Ajani, Model: Ajani Purnell, Designer: Nitara Rexana, Makeup Artist: Jasmine Wilson
In Belief and Unbelief in Medieval Europe, John H. Arnold describes the nature of the laity’s experience of the icon in this way:
“The laity’s interaction with imagery was often not the case of ‘reading’ (and being theologically instructed) but of doing: giving gifts, lighting candles, praying before statues, and so forth. In these interactions, the image was, at best, a conduit to the real object – the saint.” (57)
My childhood experience of the icon was not in the church, but in my grandfather’s house – I sat staring at his paintings for hours, mesmerized, without the faintest idea why, until I came to know them as portals through which my grandfather and I knew and communicated with each other. For years I have been fascinated with the exploration of these intimate connections – a slow and deliberate hand-making obvious my own intimate love for the work, the slightness of the supports and detail of the imagery working in tandem to support a viewer’s personal convocation with the object, and the subdued Chroma of my palette are all strategies I employ to enhance the icon quality of my own work.
That being said, the icon’s place within the Christian tradition is not lost on me. On the contrary, I find that embedding biblical narratives and references to their iconography within the tradition of western history painting in the contemporary context of my work helps to create a space where we can confront our complex individual and cultural histories of spirituality and self-definition. In the west (and increasingly elsewhere in our age of globalization) so much about who we understand ourselves to be – our gender, our role in the workforce, our place in the home, our deservingness of the good and ill fortunes that befall us – is wrapped up in a historicized biblical morality, regardless of individual faith.
Though the women in my work find themselves trapped within this system of historicized biblical morality, their hybridization is a manifestation of an internal reality of identity: they are Haraway’s Cyborg’s, occupying multiple contradictory identities, and refusing to capitulate to a single wholeness of being modeled after the most privileged among us. They are both beautiful and terrifying.
My hope then is that my work is, at best, a conduit to the real object – the self.
As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, the topic of immigration continues to be a central one.
As a child, I was fully aware of my parent’s legal status here in the United States. From the news broadcastings, we would watch nightly on TV, to my parents bringing up the topic in our conversations during dinner, I knew that we were not like everyone else. As children, my sisters and I would see news reports about families being ripped apart. My family lived in constant fear and uncertainty.
The scariest moments for me as a child were when my dad would be driving us back home from the store or church service and suddenly seeing the police lights go off behind us with no reason or when we would come up to a license checkpoint. During these moments I would be overcome by a sinking feeling and would wonder “will my dad be arrested ” or “could he be deported”. Thankfully things never escalated to the point of deportation and my dad would be let go with just a ticket. To this day I continue to have an unsettling feeling when I see police lights behind me like most people who find themselves targets of racial profiling.
Fear and living in the shadows has inspired my work.
I use my work to share stories that are generally not told. The stories of immigrant families are all too often overlooked and forgotten. Portraiture presents the opportunity to express the emotions that we feel living with uncertainty every day. By engaging in making these types of images I hope to shed light on the humanity present in all people. I use the combination of painted portraiture, collaged family photos, and personal words in my work. This allows me to make images that are unique and personal but that connect to a universal understanding of the human condition.
It is important for me to create a vehicle for my family and other immigrants to tell our stories. By doing so, I want to make more vivid the day to day life we live and shed light on the current inadequate immigration system.
Traditional art materials, industrial materials, esoteric high-tech materials . . . all these decisions by the artist carry content quite as much as form. —Thomas McEvilley, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” 1991
I sew thread unto my paintings, visually drawn to the understated and delicate. Thread creates a subtle visual effect but also possesses a tenacity depending on how it is used. A single strand of thread breaks easily, but multiple strands sewn over and over are not easily broken. Using thread not only creates my desired aesthetic effect but also makes the work more tangible, giving it more weight. The idea of the delicate yet tenacious is a reflection of my personal nature.
Inanimate objects, places, and the meanings they can hold interest me. I am largely influenced by the works of Michael Raedecker, whose often domestic household subjects are poignant in their muted tones. The stillness of objects and places leave room for contemplation— instead of portraying what is obvious, I ask the viewer to think about the depth of nuance. A heap of blankets on a bed, for example, could merely be an unmade bed. Or, perhaps, the folds in the blanket hint at a person lying under it. During my painting process, I ask myself questions such as how can I convey emotion and the passage of time through a simple gesture? One way I answer these questions is by painting gesturally, allowing the viewer to visualize my arm’s motions; this is my way of incorporating movement despite my subjects’ inherent lack of movement. All of my current work is related to time, and I will continue to explore the relationship between the past and identity in future works through objects and places. I will also continue to use thread and other textile elements in my future works, further exploring their relation to meaning.
“No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.” ― Betty Friedan
Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique comments on the 1950s stereotype relegating women to that of “housewife.” Much of that stereotype was built by the advertising of that era.
The world of advertising is heavily integrated into our everyday lives. In an age where every aspect of our social world is being littered with messaging, I wanted to contradict and take back these advertisements and make them into something uplifting rather than degrading. This became an exploration of the absurdity in the way products were being marketed to women or using women. First, I find existing vintage magazine/newspaper/tv ads and product packaging. With Photoshop, I digitally manipulate these sources by changing facial expressions, gestures, color, and text. The resulting images use sarcasm to disrupt long-standing stereotypes.
I alter the images by changing facial expressions, gestures, colors, and text of the advertisements. In my work, these vintage advertisements are altered into colorful, sarcastic, and fun imagery of women not taking any more bullshit. The new colors bring in a modernity and embrace femininity as it is today. Sometimes, I like to take a step further by transforming the usual white figures into Hispanic persons as a commentary on issues related to exclusion in the current feminist conversation.
My work revolves around expression, the situating of identity within one’s physical body. Often this is in the context of broader socio-historical narratives. Imagery is communicative and the human form is a fantastically emotive vessel laden with its’ own potent associations and powers. Each gesture, expression, ornamentation of the self has been labeled with a deeper symbolism. History and culture are norms and modes of negotiating the self and the group. They set the precedents for how the symbolism is coded.
Much of my inspiration material is ancient in nature but these pieces are often firmly grounded in modern feelings and circumstances. Expression is heavily coded in any given culture at any given time. It speaks to personality, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interests, a way of being that broadcasts the self. And however, coded it is I like working with it detached from its’ societal coding, turning it into my own personal visual language.
Tarot has been a convenient substrate for me to create this personal language. Each card has a specific frame and meaning to work from. I’m able to develop and apply my own symbolism to this framework. Tarot is only about 600 years old and the symbols it works with were constructed by western Europeans. The original card game transformed further in the 19th and 20th centuries co-opted into a divinatory tool by modern occultists. Their visual language, heavily emphasized as an ancient one by 21st-century occultists, does not translate into my own.
I decided to take the bare-bones structure of tarot to reinvent the symbols and bring them into a modern context in which it serves solely to negotiate my individual expression within the broader social moment. I conflate my own, modern, language with that of ancient civilizations, book-ending the Renaissance framework. Since many cards are very figural and a lot of my self-expression is related to the body, I wanted to rework the symbolism and associations with various aspects of the human form while I was reworking the visual symbols in a given tarot card.
My work is made to fulfill me, to express ideas and feelings in a way that is visually appealing to me. The visuals and resonance with me are crucial to why I make the work that I do. It’s a constant exploration and adjustment but being able to control it as my own primary audience gives me a lot of connection with the pieces that I make.
As a process-based artist, my practice encompasses collage, screenprinting, film and conceptual photography, and wax batik painting. In my work, I explore themes of memory, time, childhood, nostalgia, and (be)longing, as they pertain to the preservation of the past and self. In an attempt to regain some nostalgic feeling lost to growing up, I go to great lengths to recreate parts of my memory only for them to turn up sour; distorted by the disappointing realization that things won’t ever be as they were. Ultimately, my work stems from a struggle to accept the future as it is, head-on, always wanting to retreat to the past.
“The walk” is a multi-media collage series depicting natural scenes and landscapes from my hometown neighborhood. By using source material central to this neighborhood, I capture these scenes as keepsakes of a time full of play and, now, walks of worrisome thoughts. In addition to using found materials, I repurpose materials from prior projects and my personal archive. The greenery is cut from wax and ink batik paintings of dappled shadows on the street of my usual walking route. The darker pieces representing wood in each landscape are carved from disposable film photographs of my front yard and driveway on a rainy evening in April 2016.
By incorporating fragments of materials I’ve collected, I give sentimental meaning and value to these cast-aside items. Each art piece acts as a journal entry of memorabilia, housing within them ghosts of the past, immortalized by a fear of being lost.
I paint dreamscapes and characters that I call my muses. My dreamscapes are places my head goes that I feel are glimpses of the otherworld. I would describe these moments as ethereal trances. The characters in my paintings often find themselves in a dream-like gaze with an undeniable ambiance of melancholia. The vulnerable and stoic gaze is my invitation for the viewer to explore the mind of the muse and their dreamscape. The intensity of color and focus on the gaze creates a tension between the hauntingly beautiful characters and the ether-like, otherworldly atmosphere. There is an unspoken and contrasting shared sense of disturbance and enlightenment that can be felt as the character has their heads in the clouds, wandering in their dreamscape. These muses of mine are influenced by particular experiences, emotions, relationships and are narrative. They are characters that haunt or dance in my head, they are me, they are writings, they are lessons from the wise, they are experiences from the youth, they are a way of storytelling. My characters are not just one being, they are many.
My process with painting is very intuitive. I have a general vision, but the work tends to turn into something unimaginable and serendipitous. Where the unconscious takes over and begins to storytell with color. To manifest magic in a painting is my goal, but the process usually takes me on an unexpected journey. I am thinking about multiple paintings at once and color constantly. I process motion, time, color, and feelings through color with the paint as the medium. It is my way of trying to explain feelings of bliss, enlightenment, wonder, and ultimate freeness through color, light, motion, visuals, and sound to a new and heightened dimension. I will start with one color that visually seductive or matches the color to the personality of the muse. Color to me resembles different expressions, thoughts, and feelings. Color in my work tends to have a psychological effect that tells more about the essence of the character rather than features of the face. I invite you to imagine your own characters based on your own experiences and relationships.
Through color, my work narrates what I see, feel, or think in a visual setting. When in total darkness there is still a light that can be felt or seen in her work. The high chroma colors resemble energies, and I attempt to arrange them in a symbiotic way that makes the colors of the paint vibrate in resemblance to a feeling. I think a lot about push and pull between different opposites such as, dark and light, feeling free vs. feeling mechanical and suffocated, black and white vs. color, and how these opposites influence her color theories with relation to emotions. The purpose of my work is to serve as a reminder to us all to take note of what beauty surrounds us, how light and color affects everything and that it is okay to feel or to have felt a deep emotive pain. To allow ourselves to tap out of this black and white world and to dive into color. To tap into the deepness of yourself and feel the depth of the dark before the light can come. We have to love, we have to be inspired by small things that are around us, we have to be aware of what we are seeing and be thankful for it even when times are very dark. The flow state is a blissful and turbulent experience for me…surrendering to the process to be there, to let go, to move forward, and to feel enlightenment.
“Historically, technology has always had the effect of expanding the artists’ reach while challenging their individuality.”
– Will Eisner from Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. W.W. Norton, 2008, p. 161.
By taking inspiration from the great cartoons made before digital technology’s arrival, I hope to retain my individuality while creating cartoons digitally. I am drawn to cartoons as a medium due to their simplicity and ability to communicate stories that connect to a wide audience. I incorporate self-composed and produced music in my work as a means of making my stories more vivid and sensually immersive. My work tells stories inspired by my own life experiences as well as daydreams, memories, and the media I consumed as a child, including ‘90s cartoons and comics, as well as the classic Golden Age cartoons and newspaper comic strips. While my work is created entirely digitally through illustration and video software, in it I hope to channel my love and appreciation for the analog cartoons of old by striving to stay true to the approachable, joyous, expressive qualities that make those works, such as Peanuts and Looney Tunes, timeless. The aim of my work is to affirm and celebrate life. By sincerely and comedically displaying my fears, impatience, and other shortcomings in my perspective and approach to life, I hope to bring camaraderie to my viewers through my cartoons and inspire them to look at the world anew.
My art is directly inspired by my experiences as a Chinese-Vietnamese-English- American living in a white-passing female body. It is my way of understanding my identity and attempting to control the world around me. My work questions the inadequacy of language in fully conveying my inner thoughts, reflecting on my struggle to reconcile my multiethnic identity with my surrounding environment, and my discomfort of existing in a liminal space. I ask and attempt to answer questions about what agency I have to my identity and how race is performed. I also seek to interrogate the disparities in the naming of myself and in foreign objects. I continue searching to find a comfort in a transitional space while attempting to create and reclaim my family history.
I approach this through personal and multigenerational memories, represented by layered image and text. These memories are both lived and created, inspired by cultural narratives. My source imagery is from personal photographs and from appropriated sources, including museum collection images and published books. The text accompanying the images come from sessions of freewriting, a time when I allow myself to be deeply introspective about my identity and to question my current experience of existence.
I am interested in how language affects the way we perceive and label ourselves and others. I interrogate and manipulate the English language, as well as juxtapose it with Chinese, the language of my maternal family that I am extremely uncomfortable speaking. The ability to communicate effectively is a power. This breakdown of language removes the power of effective communication and forces questions of understanding. By working with Chinese, I confront my anxieties of being an “other” in my family. I use the term language to reference the cultural connotations associated with language, along with the symbols and rules embedded within each language. My artworks with the textual component of language, the matter that is written and read, rather than spoken. Language is the “shared cultural ‘space’” where the production of meaning through language is created.
I think of my work as existing in a “liminal” space, a space “between or belonging to two different places, states, etc.” This term was first used in 1909 by Arnold Van Gennep in his work Les Rites de Passage. “Liminal” is a phase during a rite of passage during which the characteristics of the ritual subject are ambiguous: “[she] passes through a cultural realm that has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state.” My conception of liminal space is that it is a state of mind. Identity is fluid, dependent upon experience and environment, and cannot be fixated by a singular categorization. I explore liminality by focusing on the idea of atmosphere. Atmosphere both surrounds us but is out of our reach, an intangible abstraction. I interpret atmosphere as the greys between black and white and as a manipulation of the concepts of depth and space.
I am also interested in the concept of the “other,” a categorization that marks someone as different or distinct from an in-group. As a white and Asian American, I struggle with categorization, existing as both part of the “in-group” and as an “other”; if I am both, how can I exist in either? Furthermore, as a woman, I am marked as an “other” in a patriarchal society. I am compelled to make work about my experiences as a woman while having my rights and needs continuously ignored. Throughout history, women’s bodies have been depicted as sexualized objects through the male gaze. I reclaim my body and sexuality through work about my right to choose and enjoy what I do with my body.
I am a multimedia artist with an emphasis on printmaking. I am inspired by the accessibility of print that is created by its reproducibility, but also by the unique, singular originals that can come from print. I work predominantly with hand-pressed relief prints on paper and fabric. I enjoy the tangibility of printmaking, using physical labor as a meditative practice to interrogate my identity and current existence. I have recently begun to explore the realm of printmaking by means of installation-based works, such as soft sculpture and artist books, as a way of making art more tangible and to give it life beyond a two-dimensional realm, as well as using the core concepts of printmaking, such as reduction and layering, through digital means.
My Drawing Machine is a semi-precise CNC machine that relies heavily on duct tape and internet How-To articles. These mechanisms combine my interests in generative and code art, DIY, and Makerspace robotics.
I set out to make a drawing machine after years of dissatisfaction with drawing. While I have learned to enjoy drawing as a process of close seeing, it remains a frustrating tool to visualize what’s in my head. After taking a few computer science courses, I realized that the process of writing code that behaves as expected is similar to the process of close looking employed in drawing. It could be argued that a drawing machine behaves as a substitute for the artist’s hand, raising questions about the value of the handmade and the codependent relationship between maker and machine.
The drawings created by the machine are akin to Cy Twombly’s scribbled and scratched lines. Their iterative, childlike marks reflect on the process of learning to draw and the expressive possibilities of machines.
Computers, unlike artists, desire clear-cut instructions. The machine requires every step to be laid out in detail, but within those instructions, there is room for a little chaos. These variations are a process of unlearning strict control over the machine that is expected in programming and allowing the system a degree of autonomy to create the work. The instructions fed into the drawing machine embrace two mechanisms of imperfection: allowances in the code itself and the limited precision of the machine’s components. Each of these mechanisms requires that the maker relinquishes control over the work, instead relying on the labor of the machine.
My interest in sustainability, conserving the environment, and honoring our connection as humans to the Earth informs my work. I work in media including painting, pigment making, drawing, ceramics, and experimenting with natural and scavenged materials.
I am striving towards a fully sustainable art practice, minimizing waste output and environmental impact by using eco-friendly materials and processes as well as hand-creating pigments from natural materials to create art thoughtfully and sustainably. In contrast to much of art’s focus on “archival” materials, things that will last forever, I am more interested in finding the balance between the preservation of my art materials, and the preservation of the environment that the materials come from.
The earth pigments I use are made from stones that contain iron, known as ochre stones, or other minerals, or charcoal, and are mixed with a gum arabic or a walnut oil binder to create the paint that I use in my work. Often I will sift the pigment directly onto a support primed with gum arabic medium, allowing the pigment to settle naturally on the paper. Making pigments is a complex and meditative process that has warranted much trial and error. My work is much about site-specific foraging, paying homage to the land, scientific experimentation, and the joy that comes from collaborating with nature.
Foraging for stones has become integral to my practice. These stones are often found by riverbeds or construction sites – any place where the earth is exposed. The works I create with these stones become a memory of the place itself. Humans have been using ochre and earth pigments for over 170,000 years, and earth pigments are created from stones and inorganic materials that can be millions of years old. By utilizing these materials and practices that stretch far back into deep time, I work with the long-term future in mind.
My quest to understand how things work steers my artistic practice, which includes photography, printmaking, sculpture, and music. I create my work in sequences and series in an attempt to catalogue and preserve the order I find in the world. At the same time, I grapple with the danger of oversimplification inherent in this approach. I am fascinated by the organizational structures that humanity builds in the pursuit of permanence and the ways in which these establishments collapse. I examine the abortive attempts humanity has made to foist its own broken orders upon nature. My goal is to create work that is technically sound and aesthetically pleasing, even as it grapples with life’s inherent complexity.
My gourd dragons particularly defy the boundaries of the more traditional realm of contemporary art. I began to love and be inspired by a medium that is traditionally used in African and some Latin American cultures, without appropriating the imagery and traditional meanings used on this medium, at a very young age. Most traditional methods or gourd art include very detailed burnings as is the case in many Peruvian pieces or as ritualistic objects, clothing, cookware, or instruments as is the case in many other tribal cultures as illustrated through various gourd anthologies such as For Gourd’s Sake by Gail Hohlweg. I, on the other hand, take the natural form of the plants as inspiration along with my love of fantasy and employ the natural colors of the dried gourds themselves to emphasize all-natural elements of the gourds, even the seeds. I cut and occasionally carve out shapes to build a form reminiscent of dragons but still recognizable. This differs from the traditional forms based above in both purpose and technique but still takes advantage of the beautiful organic forms of the material.
I continue my treatment of a more whimsical subject matter in my sculptural metalwork through connecting metal back to its more natural organic nature, as opposed to its predetermined associations. I do this by utilizing organic shapes and symbols and minimizing actual welding in my pieces. This is again echoed in most of my two-dimensional pieces by referencing similar concepts of fantasy or nature-based text and imagery, as is associated with childhood exploration.
Throughout all these works, the viewer is connecting to the primal joy of creating with one’s hands, to get the viewer to remember a happiness and imagination through craft. I challenge that, although my work is heavily based on pop culture and personal enjoyment, the final products I produce inspire in both concept and design. I am someone who is inspired by the craft world aesthetic and aspire for my work to recontextualize craft for a contemporary world similar to Sonya Clark’s works that explore craft through a contemporary art lens. My pieces unapologetically exemplify craft as should be expected from craft, one of the original categories of visual artistic expression.
Being a first-generation American woman and the child of two deported parents, Pax is a conceptual artist who explores different aspects of her identity and history. She draws on personal experience to foster a cross-disciplinary practice, utilizing mediums such as video, photography, painting, and sculpture to explore the relationship between time and memory and the way in which these structures work together to create stories. Pax relies on personal family photos, home footage, and her parents’ immigration case file as primary source material. However, her process is transformative rather than mimetic.
For example, in an untitled series, she took the stark bureaucratic government documents from her parents’ immigration case file and created large mixed media works on paper. By using propaganda poster tropes to explore and reclaim her family’s narrative, Pax hints at the aesthetic language of the Dada art movement of the early twentieth century.
More recently, her work has become reminiscent of artists such as Marlene Dumas, Alexandra Levasseur, Renluka Maharaj, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Pax creates multimedia images on canvas that explore geological, spiritual, and psychological landscapes. Her latest project is a series of daily self-portraits that do just that. These portraits visually represent non-physical moods, qualities, and events in her life, most often through abstraction or surrealism.
Pax believes that art can be used as a powerful tool to ask and explore difficult questions and disseminate ideas. Art reflects and engages with our world. As a result, it can be used as a vehicle to promote social justice and instigate positive change. She uses her voice as an artist to confront the crisis of modernity and champion a return to natural and holistic living, compassionate spirituality, and self and communal love.
In public health crises, art can serve as a meeting place: a space for conversations and new questions. I am most interested in creating projects that could help lead to conversations about making memorials that speak to both the history and urgency of ongoing public health epidemics; how we balance honoring legacies with calls to action through the creation of physical memorials.
Through drawing, photography, and photo-printmaking, I combine public health messages with dream-like representations of memories. Most of my projects begin with personal narratives, and I use handwriting and other physical memories as stand-ins for people and past experiences. These stories are centered around caregiving, HIV/AIDS, and chronic illness, and are also a way of expressing spiritual connections to loved ones.
I see the world not so much as a randomly-ordered compilation of textures and surfaces, but in its vibrant hues, shapes, and traceable silhouettes. From my earliest childhood memories of imagining cartoon characters I loved flying past the tree-line through the window of a minivan’s back-seat onward, I have always fantasized over the blend of fantastical elements into the mundane mortal plane. My pieces blur the lines of 2D figures in an established 3D space through the combination of illustration and carefully-shot photography. By transferring graphic, flat patterns to my works and manipulating often-stubborn materials into malleable forms, I ascribe my own love and fascination with color to the story which each work tells.
The subjects of my work vary widely from introspective pieces about escapism as it relates to coping with mental illness, travel, intrapersonal family dynamics, and trepidations of what the future could bring. Each piece serves to capture a moment in time; one that is fabricated but dependent on a real location to ground it in reality. The style I prefer to manipulate has much more in common with the two-page—or “full bleed”—panels that circulate through American comics and mainly, Japanese manga.
I really discovered comics when I was 11, at the time that I had my first computer and started navigating my way through the early buds of YouTube’s fan-made communal niches— which, at the time, include anything and everything to do with cartoons, animated skits, and Japanese media. When I expressed my interest in learning to draw, my mum plopped a Christopher Hart-penned “how-to-draw” book in my hands during a visit to Barnes and Noble, and I was hooked. I spent all of my time wanting to be published as a comic artist and to travel to Japan, and so when I did as a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill under an intensive foreign-language program years later, I came home with a backlog of well over 200 photographs of the scenery.
Photography—on the other hand—was a hobby for most of my life, and though I had hundreds of photographs of nature and architectural structures that I took from copious trips throughout my life, I never thought to incorporate it into my work until recently. In fact, it wasn’t until late last year that I endeavored to combine my traditional and digital mediums to create works with all of the techniques and texture of paper and physical dyes, combined with the filters and layering options present in photo editing suites such as Adobe Photoshop, Medibang, and the GNU Image Manipulation Program (known currently as GIMP 2.0). Through this combination of simplifying textures, shapes, and colors, I create rich, vibrant paintings that layer the aforementioned imaginative fictitious elements with my surroundings.
Early influences of mine included mainly non-digital comic artists such as Jamie Lynn Lano, Suppitha “Annie” Bunyapen, and Yana Toboso, as I became more enticed by the work ethic they possessed. As a child, I preferred and thus grew proficient in drawing mediums, spending all of my weekly allowances on alcohol-based markers and Pigma pens simply to learn the technical aspects of working to finish comic pages by hand. However, as time progressed and I began to show signs of developing carpal tunnel in both wrists, I became accustomed to the ease of using computer programs and a bulky UGEE tablet.
The influences of my current practice are mostly comprised of film auteurs, gifted contemporary animators, and visual artists with a penchant for the abstraction of simple colors and silhouettes. I spent my teen years idolizing the likes of Nicholas Winding Refn, Satoshi Kon, Ilya Kuvshinov, and Noma Barr—and to this day, I take their exquisite use of the mise-en-scene drenched in vivid hues and use vibrant, sophisticated color palettes to tell a story with my work. The photographic artistry of Harry Gruyaert, however, is by far the greatest influence not so much on the style of the work itself, but of the tone I try my best to convey.
My goal when creating these pieces is to stir in the audience the sense of knowing a place without ever having been there, whether that is through the colorful recreation of a photograph or a step inside of someone’s mind. Understanding is key to the appreciation of any work, I believe, and that is why I make the works that I make.