Through Our Lens: The Unification of Asian American Voices at Chapman University
Through Our Lens: The Unification of Asian American Voices at Chapman University is curated by one of CAM’s Getty Marrow Interns, Candace Chen, as her final project.
I had never been one to question my identity before starting college. My start at Chapman University was very difficult since it was the first time that I felt my Asian identity was exposed. The transition to a white-dominated university from growing up in a community that is predominantly people of color made it crushingly obvious to me that my physical traits were different. These feelings only intensified when my white peers would make statements pointing out that, “you’re not like other Asian girls.”
These type of microaggressions that would seem harmless, but has years of loaded history behind it. Due to this, I distanced myself from people and things that reminded me that I was different; a desperate way to avoid being perceived as Asian. As I have become more comfortable in my skin by making wonderful
friends and taking classes on AAPI history and visual culture, I have embraced my history and heritage as a complex intersection of Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, and American identities. My personal experience with racial identity has motivated me to focus on work that builds community and uplifts others.
With the increase of Anti-Asian hate due to the pandemic, it is crucial to expose AAPI student issues to other students to create awareness and increase advocacy for diversity and inclusion within university institutions. Through Our Lens: The Unification of Asian American Voices at Chapman University aims to provide students a space to express themselves on the topic of the Asian American student experience.
Kelsy Hua, David Yang, and Jeanna Polisini created works that tell their experience of being an AAPI student at Chapman University incorporating what they learned from visiting the Chinese American Museum. Often on campus, marginalized students do not have the opportunity to speak out about their experiences. By elevating Asian American voices through contemporary art, student artists hope to see more awareness and acceptance within our communities. Special thank you to the Chinese American Museum and the Escallete Collection of Chapman University for the constructive, persistent support with this show. And thank you to my friends and family for your unwavering belief in me.
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Kelsy Hua is a Vietnamese-American digital and traditional artist from Santa Ana, CA. She attended the art scholarship program Ryman Arts for two years during high school and is now a second year student at Chapman University. Hua is a double major in Business Administration and Graphic Design. She hopes to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, perhaps as a film/television producer or as an art director.
My digital art pieces for this show encompass themes of diaspora and acceptance. In Hy Vọng, the black and white side represents the Vietnam War and the hardships that Vietnamese people had to endure. The transition to the color side represents how the Vietnamese refugees were able to find their place in America and celebrate their heritage and the passport represents different generations. My second piece, Reconciliation, is influenced by my experience of being an Asian-American student. Unfortunately, I dealt with high expectations from my family and myself to do well in school that had some detrimental effects on my self-esteem and mental health. After opening up to others and getting therapy, I am in a better place and slowly healing.
David Yang is a Korean American. Yang was born in La Palma, CA, but lived most of his life in Cerritos, CA. He currently lives in Orange, CA and attends Chapman University, where he is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a Studio Art minor. His art has been displayed in the 2021 art departmental show in Chapman University during the spring semester.
My artwork display some of the struggles the Asian community experienced in the United States that range from the loss of major community hubs to the cultural identity crises that many face. My artworks for this exhibition are also based on my own Asian American experiences. The pieces explore the history and meaning of what it is to be Asian in America. Subsequently, my works cover the destruction of Old Chinatown in Los Angeles and my own cultural identity. These pieces are represented through ink drawings on watercolor paper.
Jeanna Polisini was born in Dianbai and adopted from Guangzhou, China at ten months old. She was raised in Thousand Oaks, CA and she graduated from Westlake High School. Polisini is currently pursuing a BFA in Studio Art at Chapman University. While she is a photographer first, her practice has evolved into mixing photography with other mediums, such as installation and sculpture. Polisini views the world with an abstract eye, as she breaks down the world’s complexities into basic shapes. Polisini’s artwork often brings awareness to anthropogenic environmental issues and her identity as an adopted Asian American.
September 4, 2000 is a photo collage series that centers around my adoption papers from the Chinese Government. Each collage is printed on 8.5×11 inch cardstock paper. The photos include significant memories from my family’s trip to China, my baby photos, and my high school graduation. Line drawings are placed on top of each photo as if I am writing in my own narrative and projecting why my life turned out the way it did. The Chinese Government mistakenly wrote a different child’s name and their birthday on the papers. The digital rendering of a red stamp my parents brought home has my Chinese name on the bottom. The act of placing this stamp over the other child’s name allows me to take back this part of my identity. Through this body of work, I am humanizing these documents and making it known that I am more than a number from the Chinese government’s perspective.