Archives for the month of: December, 2014

A small drawing I made using Sharpie, Dec. 2014

From a racial perspective, 2014 has been a watershed year. In light of Ferguson and Eric Garner, it feels as if we are on the cusp of a new, reinvigorated and more media-savvy civil rights movement—one that is manifesting in intellectual and visceral ways. All of the sudden, being minority, and especially being black, has an urgency to it. Take, for example, the website of #BlackLivesMatter; its main text is telegraphic and immediate: Get Active, Get Organized, Fight Back.

The events of the past few months have forced race into the national discussion to an almost overwhelming degree. We’re no longer avoiding the topic; we’re glutted with it. There have been innumerable articles, from both mainstream and underground publications, that offer incisive social critique and cultural analysis. Ironically, the more the country talks about race, the less I feel compelled to write about it. I’m more inclined now to simply witness, and gradually process, the societal change this dialogue is fostering. There’s too much to take in; I’m speechless.

As a side note: For those who still believe that the police were justified in killing these black guys because they were criminals, you’re ignoring the national subtext—an entire cultural narrative—underlying these events. Wake up and smell the prejudicial coffee!

Even though this blog was originally designed to talk about race (it’s even built into the name, for better or worse), I’ve delved less into general musings around it and more into the specific experiences of being an Asian American. Life is politicized when you’re a minority, and as an Asian-American female, I’m reminded of that fact every single day. Even the minutiae of everyday life, such as habits, personal appearance and conversations, are charged with identity and difference.

My hope is that in the new year, the discussion around race continues and we learn to understand one another better. Increasing awareness and recognition engenders compassion and empathy—at least, ideally. With the President of the United States candidly admitting he’s been mistaken for the valet, and even multinational conglomerate Starbucks taking a stand on racism, this kind of bipartisan social change could very well happen, maybe even quicker than we imagined.

The Visitor

There are times when you want to forget it all: global upheaval, the structural inequality of America with its systemic racism, and all the myriad injustices that pervade 21st-century life. So how to escape and instead engage in the gentlest theft of all?

I do it by arming myself with a sketchbook and finding a scene, person, or object to document on a page, usually for a half hour or less. The process of capturing the lines and shadows of your subject—of stealing a small moment—is the best way for me to connect with the present. It feels meditative but also vexing; sketching is not an easy process, particularly in an unforgiving medium like pen, which can be as precarious as a tightrope act. (One stray mark can wreck a drawing.)

These quiet sketches are the underpinnings of my life. They are a validation of, and a reconciliation with, the world. In this way, they provide a tonic to the anger and revulsion I tend to feel toward current events. Sometimes what is in front of you is a marvelous event in itself. For example, a velvety midsummer peach.

G_The Promise

Or a reading woman visited by a sparrow. A scattering of autumn leaves on the sidewalk.

Harvest or Loss

A vanishing neighborhood.

Vanishing Capitol Hill

The mere practice of observing objects or people in detail is an empowering, enlightening one. It makes you realize, “Hey, look at this world around me—I’m so lucky to witness this beauty and to move amidst it.” Focusing on the micro makes the macro, as problematic as it is, suddenly and surprisingly worthwhile. The art that comes out of it is merely a fortuitous byproduct.

Snatching these moments is the only kind of thievery I know of that offers its own redemption.

In order of appearance:
The Visitor, 4×6 in, pen and ink, 2011
The Promise, 4×6 in, colored pencil and graphite, 2010
Harvest or Loss?, 2.75×3.6 in, pen and ink, 2012
Vanishing Capitol Hill, 2.75×3.6 in, pen and ink, 2014

All pieces are available, from December 11 through February 12, 2015, at Ghost Gallery in Seattle, WA.