By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Three artists. Three perspectives. Three platforms.
The newest exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum analyzes the cultural history of a group and how it is passed along through generations. Entitled “Lore Re-Imagined: Shadow of our Ancestors,” Megumi Shauna Arai, Satpreet Kahlon, and Alex Anderson’s installations represent their viewpoint of handing down traditions and preserving history. Each utilize a unique medium to convey their message.
Arai’s featured installation is a tapestry woven by 42 different people, entitled “Unnamed Lake.”
The project was sparked by a quote by poet Elizabeth Alexander, “Are we not of interest to each other?” Hanging up against a wall within the museum, you can literally hear voices of those that stitched in their section of the tapestry. Arai interviewed and recorded them as they spoke with her. The layering fabric and the different colors, textures, and designs do not present a uniform design, which seems to be one of the subtle communications the artist makes to the viewer. The method, Sashiko, literally means “little stabs” or “little pierce.” It’s a form of decorative reinforcement mending from 18th century rural peasants in Japan. Traditionally, it is used to reinforce points of wear or to repair tears with patches, making the piece stronger. Arai taught pairs of strangers Sashiko and took part in conversation inspired by Japanese tradition.
Arai is a self-taught Japanese and Jewish multidisciplinary artist working in a variety of media, including photography, installation, and textile. She grew up between the Pacific Northwest and Tokyo with a cultural anthropologist mother and economist father. She is interested in investigating assimilation and resistance, othering, and social disconnection in the present day.
Perhaps the most intriguing, disturbing, and innovative installation of the three is Kahlon’s multimedia presentation. The work represents the loss of ancestral memory that comes with forced migration. It is about dichotomies, separation, and yearning.
At first glance, the work appears as a form of disruption. There is no real way to view the work without having to think critically what it is about and the meaning behind it. The work is a set of cardboard, wood scraps, and masking tape interconnected by string. Interspersed within this are turned on tablet computers. According to the work, the installation is made to feel like a living, breathing, shifting thing.
Kahlon was born in Punjab, India and is currently based in Seattle and Providence, R.I. She is currently studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she received a full fellowship to pursue her MFA in Sculpture. According to her biography, Kahlon’s interests are in creating visual language and immersive encounters that express and explore intersectional experiences as the structural systems of inequity that dictate their boundaries.
Anderson uses ceramics and paintings to convey his message of the cultural practice of handing stories and traditions down from one generation to the next. Anderson incorporates painted scenes on to the canvases of his ceramics. He also includes flowers in his work, which signify the beauty of being alive. His scenes explore self-identity in larger social structures that create and maintain the constructs of race, gender, and sexuality. According to his artist statement, “[M]oral and physical decay intrigue me as a testament to the impact of a world that demands a flawless surface from its inhabitants.”
Anderson’s works are more traditional compared to the other two artists. However, the meaning coming across through his work is just as sharp. His use of the flower within the work is a reminder of the beauty within the struggle.
Anderson holds an MFA from University of California, Los Angeles. He graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. He was a resident artist at the China Academy of Art during his tenure as a Fulbright scholar. He also studied abroad at the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in China.
Guest curator Chieko Phillips put together “Lore Re-Imagined: Shadow of Our Ancestors.” The exhibit places ideas about preserving cultural memory on center stage. The genesis of the project was to convey the story of how indigenous groups and marginalized communities have long relied on non-written transmission of stories, art forms, and other knowledge to maintain a historical record and sustain their cultures and identities. The artists of Lore Re-Imagined guard cultural memory by giving it an active place in their contemporary practice.
For more information on the exhibit, visit wingluke.org.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.