FALL 2018 MATERIALS & MEDIA W/JIMMY BULOSAN

ART THERAPY & COUNSELING, SAIC


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TEN-DAY PROJECT: BODY

Womanhood: my body, my burden Found objects (wood, butterflies, lake glass, stones, acorns), moss, and flowers (2018)

One of my daily rituals is my morning walk with Bodhi, whom I adopted as my ESA about a year and a half ago. He has helped me to be more “present” in my life and essentially to open my eyes to things in the world that I would not have otherwise noticed. This Materials and Media course project focused on the concept of “Body”; and, it began with materials that both Bodhi and I both found in our daily explorations of downtown Chicago.

First with “sea glass”, flattened, smooth stones, and various driftwoods along the 12th St Beach on Lake Michigan. My senses are heightened – the sound of the waves, the brush of the wind – as I scanned the sand, reeds, and rocky terrain. There is a meditative aspect to the searching and collection of these found materials.

Unlike traditional art materials, found materials need to be prepared. The glass and stones were washed and sorted; the wood and flowers were dried; the driftwood was bleached and soaked in boiled water. I experimented with the materials and explored the organic shapes in different arrangements; Stones which appeared to be bone arranged (and eventually Gorilla-glued) to driftwood (almost appearing like flesh).

This project was very much learning HOW to work with new materials. With efforts to reduce my frustrations, I randomly used humor to describe my interactions with the materials (my critiquer said it sort of “humanized them” and gave them a voice. Quite accurately, I was learning how to “negotiate” the string and how to tie these stones.

I made several pieces to do so. After figuring out how to quadruple up on the sewing thread in order to tie the stones, I created hanging pieces which represents the body as displaced (driftwood) with the grounding (stones). The motion of the dangling stones, however, represent the moving forces of change (or, perhaps tendons keeping muscles attached to bone). I then tried using wire to create grounded pieces.

During the Critical Pedagogies in Arts Therapies (CPAT) Conference, I created my first embroidery with a uterus (and added vagina) to represent the duality of being a woman with her body parts as both being a source of disadvantage and of power. Similarly, though she wields the power of creation in the womb, yet her body becomes a means of having power taken from he as well as a means of dis(ability) (pregnancy).

My experiences with sexual assault and harassment have led me to the field of art therapy; however, my greatest fear is the potential for those experiences to negatively affect my ability to support others in their own healing. My fears, shame, pain, etc are embodied in me. The process of cleansing and bleaching some of the driftwood to remove dirt and beetles reminded me of the ways in which I have had to cleanse myself of my traumas and the feelings associated with them. One of my pieces involved stabbing or embedding the “sea glass” into cleansed driftwood.

My final work (left) , I use a serendipitously found piece of driftwood with curved, almost vein-like roots that immediately reminded me of the shape of a uterus or even a heart. Left unwashed, unsterilized, I adorned it with the same stones and glass along with shells and preserved flowers (dried) and new found objects acorns and pine cones (freshly fallen, so still alive) - elements that represent rebirth and regeneration.


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TEN DAY PROJECT: MEMORY

American Dream Mixed Media (Analog Photography, Digital Print, Japanese printed paper collage) (Image above(

Inspired by the work of Ralph Arnold, Kara Walker, Alexandra Bell, and Scheherazade Tillet, I wanted to create a work of “memory” using self-portrait images from my analog photography done during my college years and reworking the images into new context. Perhaps the first time that I have really tried to explore memories that have formed my sense of self-identity in terms of race and citizenship, I realize that I have always felt displaced as a person recognized always as “An Asian” before American. “An Asian” meaning that Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, etc are “all the same.” It will always be an “American Dream” for me because I will always exist in the liminal space between Asian and American.

In creating this collage, I began to then consider the aspects of memory and identity from an intersectional lens in my digital multimedia piece, Best Before…

Best Before Mixed-media (digital photography, photo-editing, and cellophane) (image below)

In further exploration of self-identity through race and citizenship, I then delved into the ways in which culture and society help define our self-identity and sense of self-worth. For girls and women, the positive concepts of growth, development, and maturity are often overshadowed by the negative aspects of the burdens of sexualization and of aging. Across all cultures, girls and women are more likely to be subject to superficial judgments and expectations of gendered roles in all aspects from appearance, behavior, profession, and even in how they care for their own bodies. How does one’s own sense of self evolve as they navigate their life journey?

Furthermore, technology and social media have vastly impacted the ways in which people are able to “see” themselves. The new mirror and self-portrait is now the infamous “selfie.” Along with photo-editing platforms like MakeupPlus allow people to modify their facial features to make themselves look younger, more beautiful, more attractive, and so on. These images, however, not only reflect ones superficial attributes, but now also create messaging about ones personality, intelligence, and lifestyle. How are one’s sense of self, self-image, self-esteem, self-awareness, etc shaped and re-shaped by social media? How does it affect one’s wellness as it relates to their self-identity, and subsequently “value” of self?

In making my facial “improvements” on the mobile app, I realized that most of the features I used were to make me look younger and more Western: the smoothing out my skin, whitening of my skin, increasing the size of my eyes and lips, narrowing the width of my nose and face, etc. How much is too much? Which become new standards of beauty? Which do I aspire to be? How has the wider distribution of these dehumanized, sexualized images of Asian woman affected the ways in which I am treated in society, and thus affected my self-identity?

The final work reflected the intersectional challenges of being an Asian woman: maintaining the stereotypes of being the intelligent, privileged model minority whilst fighting the stereotypes of being a sexualized and dehumanized submissive. In both Eastern and Western culture, the same misogyny exists wherein the Asian woman is commodified.

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TEN DAY PROJECT: BEING

The Fortune of Wellness Found objects, Flowers, and cement sculpture

Inspired by Eli Clare’s Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure, SAIC MAATC’s Disability Panel, Liz Jackson’s talk on Designing with Disability, and Sandie Yi, I wanted to continue to explore my personal narrative as it relates to intersectionality and disability, topics which I had never contemplated.

The process of figuring out how to connect the branches was difficult and quite frustrating. It was very reflective of the ways in which thinking about my challenges in life as it related to my self identities, roles, and experiences. I was never afforded or invited to do so, so the idea of doing so unleashed so many thoughts and emotions in me. One leading to another, another one intersecting another - similar to the ways in which these branches emerged.

The 4D element of time is represented by the length and size of the piece itself. The arrangement of the branches in addition to the “transition” from dead flowers (the past) to living (present), though both living and dead coexist in the base. Driftwood and dried rosebuds from the top transitioning to partially living roses intertwined with fortune cookies hovering over lush, living flora decorated with hanging fortune cookies growing out of dead roots secured in cement. The fortune cookies have the messages of “You will be cured,” “You will overcome,” “You will be worthy,” “You will be normal,” etc that reflect the stigmatism and ableism that surrounds disability issues.

The fortune cookies (amongst other things) represent a similar “othering” that dis(abilities) subject individuals to with stereotypes and mis-identification. They represent a sort of example in which acceptance of such stereotypes and assimilation lead to “success” or at least survival. Asian Americans have been and will always be subject to. From the lesser known forms of discrimination such as the Chinese Exclusion Act to the popular culture of Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Crouching Tiger, etc, the stereotypes that have most affected me are paradoxical: the submissive Lotus Blossom vs the Dragon Lady. The fortune cookie is also a euphemism for my woman part, which has been the “source” of my traumas, my subsequent invisible disability, and my need for overcoming, healing, and cure.

As someone with an “invisible” disability, I created a gap between the two pieces to reflect the concept of “liminal space” for me in terms of my BEING: identity, citizenship, and place of healing. “Liminal space” has emerged as a significant concept in my work as I consider that ways in which I am perpetually displaced and in transition because of society’s perception of me as well as how I perceive myself.


FINAL PROJECT

A surprise labor of love and camaraderie to be shared by all to celebrate our exciting new journey…