Gallery of the Month: May

Welcome to the newest gallery in JAC’s Gallery of the Month series, where we showcase a wide range of art and writing under unique monthly themes. Check back on the first of each month for a new collection of works by the talented artists in the JAC network. To view past galleries of the month, see our Gallery Archive

“I grew up immersed in two cultural perspectives: American and Vietnamese. I was confused as to my identity. I was both proud and ashamed of my ethnic heritage. I was often the “different” kid in most settings. My novelty brought both praise and (more often) ridicule. Combine that with years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and you get a pretty damaged person that didn’t see much value in art…I chose to harm society once. Although nothing I can do will ever right that wrong, I choose now to live a life of amends and positivity.”

~Cuong Mike Tran

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we here at JAC wanted to highlight some of the work by AAPI artists who are a part of our network.  By doing so we hope to highlight the importance of amplifying the voices and stories of Asian Americans and acknowledge that historically many of their contributions to the fabric of U.S. culture and history have been overlooked.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders “bring a combined legacy to their work… varieties of Asian thought and spiritual practice have had a profound and lasting influence on a remarkable number of Western artists.” (https://www.si.edu/spotlight/asian-american-arts-artists). Not only is the AAPI community home to a rich diversity of art, but artwork by members of the AAPI community plays a role in providing a communal voice, as “radical, progressive art played a key role in shaping the modern conception of Asian American identity.” (https://www.kqed.org/arts/13880441/asian-american-protest-art-pandemic). Throughout history, Asian American artists have been a voice for their community, reclaiming history and space through art. As you view this gallery, we hope you notice the different art styles, themes, and influences throughout—to reflect on what you see as you engage with each piece, and to critically think of the power and meaning each piece carries. 

In viewing this month’s gallery, we hope you will also acknowledge the role of the carceral state in the lives and histories of the AAPI community. The NAACP reports that 35% of Asian adults feel targeted because of their race. And according to authors Cathy Hu and Sino Esthappan, the Pacific Islander community in Hawaii endures 4x higher incarceration rates than non-Hispanic whites. Overall, there is a lack of proper investigation regarding the overrepresentation of the AAPI community within the carceral system. This lack of research obscures the discrimination the AAPI community faces on a daily basis. As a result of this Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are often left out of conversations surrounding the carceral system: “the model minority myth…leads to the exclusion of AAPIs in both mainstream and critical studies of crime and carcerality” (Raymond Magsaysay). In light of this reality, we believe it is important to recognize the various struggles the AAPI community faces—from stereotyping and criminalization, to the larger history of ostracization—and to challenge the xenophobia that lives within this country.

Art can act as a medium that provides not only comfort, but a voice. Even today, as the AAPI community continues to face hate crimes, “Many Asian-American artists feel a calling to make explicitly political art that pushes back against racism during the pandemic, continuing a legacy of protest art that began in the 1960s”  (Eda Yu, Mashael Al Saie, Christine Oh). We must continually uphold these voices. As you scroll through this month’s gallery, we hope that you not only take time to view the work but also to appreciate the artist who made it.

We hope you enjoy this month’s gallery: AAPI Heritage Month