Point of Process

#NoPanelLeftBehind, Art, creativity, inspiration, Narrative, process, Story, Works In Progress

I’ve recently become aware that I need to refine how I talk about my creative process. My process is largely iterative ~ far from linear. I love repurposing old paintings, building upon the history that is already there. I’m happy to abandon ideas of where I was trying to steer my painting, and open myself up to where it wants to go.

But in the midst of these bold 180s, one can miss the fact that there is a method to the madness. Every layer is deliberate and serves a purpose. Every layer is infused with intention. And this intention, whether it can be seen in the final piece or just felt, can be sensed by the viewer when they stand in front of the finished painting.


For example, here are four starts to four separate pieces:

• A meditation on contemplative imagination (and the ways that our art can amplify our activism).

• 2 collaged panels of transcribed interviews with my family/Chagga tribal elders.

• And images of notable milestones in my life.

Even though my approach might seem intuitive and loose, rest assured, it is not random or mindless. Every layer serves a purpose and informs the final piece, even if they lie deeply embedded beneath the surface…🤓

10 years ago today…

creativity, family, Film, inspiration, Narrative, process, Story

#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.🖤

Quieting the Mind – Origin Story

Art, creativity, Narrative, Origin story, process, Works In Progress

🔴 1/5/2021: “Quieting the Mind” (40″x30″) is a painting I never thought would leave my house. It’s a subtle piece that’s impossible to photograph ~ so it was never going to sell online. And being mostly white, it didn’t show well on white gallery walls. So I stopped showing it/sharing it, and hung it in the espresso colored living room where I write every morning. Then a dear friend/neighbor/fellow artist asked if she could come by this weekend to see my paintings. And this is the piece that caught her eye. It’s amazing how each painting finds its way to the person who’s meant to have it. This one is easily overlooked by some, mesmerizing to others. And it’s a piece that could only ever have been bought by someone who saw it in person. Thank you for taking the time to notice this piece, S.G. I’m honored that it will be living on in your love-filled home at the end of the lane.🌸

Here is a look back at the relatively swift evolution of this piece.

. . . . . . . . .

May 19, 2019: Starting a new 30″x40″ piece with India ink calligraphy that says “Natural Woman.” I used my favorite jumbo brush (on the right) from Elizabeth Schowachert.

 

Process shots of the piece as it evolves, starting with blanket layers of colors.  First the warm layers…

 

…followed by the cool. I really like the feel at this stage. I love the fresh marks, the reds poking through, the shades of Spring green, the hints of dark and light. I have to actively resist falling in love with parts of the painting at this early stage. Because I know this is just getting started.

 

Swinging back to add more warms. The green/red is such an unusual combination for me. I think all the poppies on my morning walks are working their way into my paintings.

 

[Following the opening reception for my first solo show the previous night]: This introvert’s need to retreat after the high octane output of the past couple weeks is showing up in today’s painting, as I turn the volume down on the already quiet conversations in this piece. Spent most of the day scraping back and dissolving the surface layers to reveal the understory ~ then coating the piece with shades of warm white. Time for my painting (and me) to rest! So I’m putting it up on the kitchen wall, and will see how it feels in the light of day.

 

June 9, 2019: After a month of hanging on the wall, this piece is back on my easel for some fine tuning. The white was feeling a bit heavy handed in areas. So I scraped it back with a razor to let some more of the under layers poke through. Then I smoothed it over lightly with some cooler whites. This is one of my quietest pieces to date. And I love the submerged thoughts, ideas, memories poking through. Finding the sweet spot between hidden & revealed feels like the balancing act of quieting the monkey mind during meditation…

Art as Resistance

Activism, Art, Art For Sale, creativity, Narrative, process

Where Justice Meets Joy (2020)

I’ve been reflecting on the role of art in my life this past year. As a queer, mixed race, black-skinned daughter of immigrants ~ and as a mom with a daughter starting high school ~ carving out time to get into the studio each day is saving me and keeping me sane.

I started this painting on Valentine’s Day ~ in the Time Before. This piece saw me through the shutting down of life as we know it due to the global COVID pandemic. I learned that fire tornados and murder hornets are real things. I weathered cancelled openings and events, and missed graduations and family gatherings. As the world stood still, I bore witness to the brutal slayings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Michael Ramos, Dreasjon Reed, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Carlos Carson. And I found inspiration in the youth-led uprising that fueled the protests and demands for justice in the months that followed.

Out in the world, I was confronted with, and witnessed, oppressive hatred aimed at eradicating all that I embody and love. In my 20s, the energy of these encounters would have ignited the righteous anger that fueled my activism. Now that I’m just shy of 50, I find that anger, even when it’s righteous, is no longer a generative power source for me. Instead, it drains me, shuts me down and closes me off.

My focus this past year has been refusing to allow this groundswell of hatred, willful ignorance, and fear-mongering to diminish my humanity. Choosing to come from a place of beauty, compassion, accountability, generosity, resilience and joy is an act of radical love. I believe this gritty, robust, eyes-wide-open love is the root of liberation. My resistance meant daring to believe that the world through my eyes, as a queer Black woman, is relevant and beautiful and worthy of consideration.

Instead of absorbing the caustic energy, I poured my rage, fear and grief into this painting. After 8 months, the energy gave way to something new and surprising. And out of many layers of pain emerged a vision of a world where justice and joy coincide. The painting was offering me a vision of liberation that was deeply seeded in this radical kind of love.

So this year ~ and this painting ~ have taught me three things about the role of art in my life.

  • Art is my portal to Liberation.
  • Making art is how I convert energy into matter.
  • Art is no longer an ‘if I have time’ matter. It has become as integral to my well-being as my daily writing practice. It is a must. It helps me repair and restore the parts of my soul that are beyond the reach of words.

When We Were One

Art, Art For Sale, creativity, family, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, 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…

 

Interview about art & process

Art, family, Narrative, Speaking, Story

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.

Winter/Spring 2020 News

Art, Exhibition, Film, Gallery, Narrative, Speaking, Story

Just posted my Winter/Spring 2020 Newsletter which provided the following list of upcoming art shows and film screenings.  If you’re interested in subscribing, click here to view it and select “Subscribe” in the top/left corner.  (I send out 2-3 newsletters a year).

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Upcoming Art Exhibits:

THE CLOUD ROOM
“Showing Signs of Wear”
Solo Show

March 2020
Opening Reception & Artist Talk: March 12, 6-9pm
Capitol Hill Art Walk
* This gorgeous space includes a bar,
so this will be a 21+ event.

 

ART XCHANGE GALLERY
Sense Us 2020
Juried Group Show
March-April 2020
Opening Reception: March 5, 5-8pm
Second Reception:  April 2, 5-8pm
Pioneer Square Art Walk

 

CENTER ON CONTEMPORARY ART (COCA) GALLERY
20/20 Vision“: Juried Member Show
Nichole DeMent (Juror)
March-April 2020
Opening Reception: March 5, 6-9pm
Pioneer Square Art Walk

 

COLUMBIA CITY GALLERY
Featured Artist
May-June 2020
Opening Reception: May 16, 5-7pm

 

CONFLUENCE GALLERY
Twisp, WA
The Stories We Tell
August 29 – October 5, 2020
Fall Art Walk & Studio Tour

*Please note, you can see my art year round at Columbia City Gallery.

The Paths We Travel

Art, Exhibition, family, Gallery, Narrative, Origin story, Story

Artist Statement

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…

Currently on exhibit at
Columbia City Gallery (Seattle)
through Jan. 5, 2020.

The Scaled-Down Truth

Art, Exhibition, Installation, Narrative, Residency, Story, Works In Progress

“The Truth Has No Borders” is a multimedia piece that integrates 40 years of writing, photography, music, film, and art into a single cohesive, immersive installation.

It was originally created to exhibit in a shipping container for COCA’s 30-day Storefronts [UN]contained Residency in 2016. Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to revisit this project, and fully realize my vision. But I’ve been struggling with how to convey the impact of this piece in grant/exhibition applications.

I shot this test video on-site when I only had the first two layers of paper panels up (I wanted to see how the projection & sound worked in the space.) The final installation had 7 layers of paper panels.  But my dream is to FILL the room with floor-to-ceiling encaustic paper panels — a layered paper screen embedded with images of my Mom’s Korean family, that are illuminated by the projected moving imagery of my Dad’s Chagga family on Kilimanjaro.

When I brought this dilemma to Larry Calkins, he suggested building a model of the project to film. Brilliant!!  And so my diorama project begins…(projection and sound to follow).

The many faces of “Broadstairs” (Origin story)

#NoPanelLeftBehind, Art, Exhibition, Narrative, Origin story, Story, Works In Progress

One painting, from start to finish, in 768 days…

This 24″x 24″ painting has undergone a surprising number of transformations before finally settling on the Broadstairs piece currently exhibiting at Northwest Encaustics. As one of the more epic #NoPanelLeftBehind pieces, I decided to trace Broadstairs back to its origins, and offer snapshots of its evolution over the past 2 years…

March 13, 2017

Most of my pieces begin with writing…whether it be part of a journal entry, passage from a book, lyric, poem. The base layers here also includes wood glue burn, yellow india ink, and several clear coats of encaustic medium.

March 13, 2017

School’s out, which means my studio assistant is on hand to scrape back the layers. Always happy to let the kid loose on my paintings. I consider this a good return on my investment.😉