I was recently a guest on the Future Tripping Podcast, a project of the Trauma Stewardship Institute. The host, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, is an author/activist, an internationally recognized leader in the field of trauma exposure ~ and one of my dearest friends for the past 30+ years! As such, she holds all the pieces of my personal, family, work and creative life. At its core, our conversation reveals the depth and breadth of “making art to better understand my cultural inheritance and legacy,” and shows why art – the creation and maintenance of it – can be an essential act of liberation.💗
I’m so grateful to art collector Paul Drinkwine for inviting me to partake in his project, Lost In Composition, “an art blog focusing on living artists and their works.” What a gift, to have this growing record of folks making art in our region at this moment in time.
Our conversation covered a 30 year span ~ starting with my activism, then moving through my work in film, photography, parenting, and finally visual art. What a rare treat to have this much time and space to reflect on my life and creative journey!
Paul created this dedicated page for our conversation which includes his reflections, images of work we discussed, and links to other artists mentioned in our conversation.
I look forward to seeing who he selects for future episodes…
#TBT2011 10 years ago today, I had the thrill of seeing myself, my family, my film through a stranger’s eyes. Lindy West (who later authored Shrill, The Witches Are Coming, and most recently Shit, Actually) wrote the first ever review of my film. By the end of it, I was crying. Up until that moment, I had no idea whether my film would resonate or connect with anyone outside my circle of friends and family. Mostly because I had been told by funders and distributors for 8 years that no one would care. I was an unknown. There was no one famous in my film. It took place in “Africa. Who could relate to this? Why should anyone care about the stories of these people? What makes you think your story matters to anyone but you?” It was a relentless torrent of unequivocal No’s.
So after hearing (but not believing) that my personal story was unrelatable, the power of seeing my film reflected back at me in Lindy’s words knocked the wind out of me. She got it. She got all of it. She offered insights into my family and my story that I hadn’t even made. I felt seen and validated.
I cannot overstate the power of this moment. Reading Lindy’s words erased the years of rejection, and set me on a new course. I stood taller. I breathed deeper. I stopped seeking the permission or approval of traditional gatekeepers, hoping they could pave the way for my film. I carved out my own path instead, and my film’s life span has exceeded all expectations.
My take away, from both my film and experiencing Lindy’s review ~ Never underestimate the power of bearing witness to another person’s story.🖤
Everything I create is about exploring the stories I’ve inherited and the stories I’m passing down. I make art to better understand my place in this flow of cultural inheritance and legacy.
When I was pregnant, I had a book that gave weekly updates about the fetus development. I remember reading one week that if I was having a girl, my body was creating all the eggs she will ever carry.
Having worked for 12 years as a crisis counselor, and knowing what I know about inter-generational trauma, I didn’t take this news lightly. So I took that week off, and reflected on what it means to be creating descendants whom I may never meet.
“When We Were One” deals specifically with this week, being pregnant with my daughter ~ and more expansively, considers the bloodlines that connect us all.
Here is a short video where I reflect on what this piece means to me…
Today I had the pleasure of talking with Deborah Kapoor about my art and process. Our recorded conversation will be used in her college art class in the section called “Layering with Paint: Home/Addressing the Personal to Global.”
This was a first for me, talking about my creative process and how I use art to examine the stories I’ve inherited and the stories I’m passing down about who I am and where I come from. I’m so grateful to be included in Deborah’s line up of Seattle artists that she is interviewing for her class.
As a kid, I found it comforting to think about how wildly the universe had to conspire just so I could be here. I would lie in bed and think about all the serendipitous moments that had to happen just so my Tanzanian father and South Korean mother could meet, halfway around the world, and have me. I would think about the epic stories of love, betrayal, sacrifice, migration, survival ~ all the random encounters and deliberate life choices extending back generations that had to happen just so my parents could meet and have me.
And as I got older, made friends and met their families, I realized that everyone has stories that are epic in scope ~ even if their families have lived in the same town for generations.
Every one of us is the embodiment of the life stories of our parents, our grandparents, our ancestors. We carry their stories forward with us, whether we’re conscious of them or not. But make no mistake ~ we are all here because of these stories.
Making art is how I make sense of these stories I’ve inherited about who I am and where I come from…and the stories I’m now passing down. As a mother, I feel compelled to think about where I stand in this flow of cultural inheritance and legacy. These paintings reflect the internal and external landscapes that have been traversed just to reach this point where our paths could cross in this gallery, in this city, at this moment in time…
I’m excited to be showing my work at Proletariat Pizza for the next couple of months!! Last year, Sandra the manager found me on Instagram. She reached out and asked if I would be interested in showing my work at her restaurant. The aesthetic, the vibe, the expansive wall space–not to mention, the pie! It was an easy YES!!!
This week, Tom and I installed 24 pieces — including 4 new pieces fresh off the easel. All paintings are for sale. My art, on these walls, looks fantastic!
It was just announced that I am one of 16 recipients of the 2018 Artist Trust Fellowship ~ “an unrestricted grant program that awards $7,500 to practicing professional artists of exceptional talent and ability.” (You can read the full press release here.) I am in awe of all that Artist Trust does to support the arts and artists across Washington state! And I am grateful to the Jurors for their time and thoughtful deliberation — and for their kind consideration of my application. Having served on numerous film festival and grant juries, I’m aware what a time and energy commitment it is to review and deliberate over hundreds of submissions…
This news has me Standing Taller and Breathing Deeper. With this generous Fellowship, I will finally have the time and resources to complete the ambitious project I started during my COCA residency last year. The Truth Has No Borders is a multi-media installation that integrates 40 years exploring my family narrative through writing, music, film and art.
And finally, a Huge congrats to my fellow Fellows! I am deeply honored to be in the company of so much Excellence.
Pictured Left to Right/Top to Bottom: Tariqa Waters, Barbara Sternberger, Taiji Miyasaka, Christopher Paul Jordan, Ryan Feddersen, Haruko Nishimura, Jade Solomon Curtis, Salome MC, Grace Love, Christopher Icasiano, Eliaichi Kimaro*, Tessa Hulls, Diana Xin, Mattilda B. Sycamore, Laura Da’, and Cathy Linh Che. *A warm thank you to Zorn B Taylor for my beautiful headshot.
With my title banner done, and the first “layer” of paper panels with family image transfers complete, I went to the shipping container today to do a quick install. I took this short 30 second video with my phone to capture the look and feel of the piece.
I also wanted to test the sound. I will not be playing the audio from my movie. Instead, I will be playing field recordings I gathered while filming on Mt. Kilimanjaro. I have 2+ hours of Chagga women elders singing the work songs they would traditionally sing to keep their energy and spirits up. I have slowed the track down, and added a slight reverb that plays beautifully in the shipping container.
It’s so exciting to see this piece coming together!! I can’t wait to see how this space feels when I add more layers of paper to give a feeling of depth extending all the way to the back of this cavernous shipping container. The layers of paper panels are not meant to be an actual screen for viewing the film — but rather, a surface to be illuminated with color and light. The moving images of my family on Mt Kilimanjaro will illuminate the Korean side of my family, extending back generations, embedded in the paper. I have lots of paper panels awaiting image transfers…but at least the way forward is clear. It’s just work. I know I can do that.
Going thru so many family photos today, feeling profoundly still and in the flow, cracked wide open, and aware of how intertwined love and grief are for me in this moment. Really feeling the beauty and depth and value that age brings as I reflect on the complexities of our real lived lives. looking deeply into the faces of those who came before, I can see the indelible imprint of their love in Lucia’s being. Been crying on and off all day, feeling so very grateful for these creative openings….