By Guadalupe Pinedo
In honor of Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, Transnational Lives in Motion: The Art of Laura Kina and Viet Le, an art exhibition, will run at the W. Keith and Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery until April 23.
Kina’s work, Uchinanchu, highlights the struggles that a multiracial individual faces. While Le presents his “Love Bang!” trilogy. Inside the exhibit, short films are shown that give insight into topics ranging from Asian pop culture, the ghosts of our past and the hardships that war can bring to a country and its people. The artists are presenting their work together for the first time.
Kina shows her work nationally and internationally. Her Asian and Hawaiian heritage comes from her father who was Okinawan from Hawaii. She was raised in the state of Washington.
In addition to being an artist, Kina is a professor of art, media and design and a faculty member of critical ethnic studies, global Asian studies and women’s and gender studies at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.
Le migrated to the U.S. from Vietnam. He lived on a refugee camp in Thailand for six months, where he had access to little food and clothes. When he immigrated to the U.S., he eventually attended UC Irvine, where he received his master of fine arts degree. Le taught Studio Art and Visual Culture at UC Irvine. In honor of his work, Le has received countless fellowships.
Transnational Lives in Motion represents a collaborative effort between the Michi and Walter Weglyn Endowed Chair of Multicultural Studies and the Kellogg Art Gallery. It was co-curated by Mary Yu Danico and Michele Cairella Fillmore. The exhibit sheds light on the issues that have plagued Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders for years. Through their work, Kina and Le bring the issues of identity crisis and seeking refuge in the U.S. from war torn countries to the forefront.
“It started off as a sociological exhibit but representing artists that are dealing with sociological issues and ethnic studies and national identity”that was the concept,” said Fillmore.
The gallery’s walls are adorned with colorful quilts and pieces that speak volumes. Kina’s work is exclusive for this show. Uchinanchu, her work’s title, is a series of 15 quilt-painting pieces. She used donated T-shirts and pieces of quilt to create her work. Through these pieces, she wanted to explain her relationship to her Okinawan heritage. The T-shirts that she used symbolized parts of her Okinawan heritage, while the T-shirt itself represented her American side. She also has roots in the south. Her mother is from Tennessee, and she felt this was a way of including all aspects of her multiracial heritage.
“The show is kind of thinking about my relationship to being part of the Okinawan diaspora,” said Kina.
Her work was exhibited in two categories: her own personal identity and broad political issues that Okinawa faces with its U.S. military presence.
“It is individual and communal identity but also larger political identities too and affiliations that go beyond just our national borders,” said Kina.
For this body of work being displayed at the Kellogg Art Gallery, Le took five years to develop the trilogy. The trilogy features “Love Bang!,” a metaphor for the relationship between Cambodia, Vietnam and the U.S. “Eclipse” speaks of the ghosts of our past and deals with spiritual and sexual crises. “Heartbreak!” is the story of boys in refugee camps and how war can destroy lives.
“They all kind of deal with depressing, kind of heavy, things but through kind of fluffy pop,” said Le.
Le used his own personal experiences and sociological issues from around the world to develop his work. It is based on the relationship between Southeast Asian countries and the U.S. In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam War last year, Le wanted to develop a project that would give the viewer an insight into what it was like living through these times.
“The videos, they look very fantasy-based or very surreal, but they’re really deeply rooted in geopolitics of the world right now or heavily grounded in history like the Vietnam War and the refugee crisis,” said Le.
The exhibit deals with many real life issues that generations of immigrants can relate to. The exhibit attracts more and more visitors each day.
Annie Lee is a hospitality management graduate student. Lee is Vietnamese and decided to visit the exhibit when she saw Le was showing his work but showed admiration for Kina’s work.
“It’s kind of interesting in the way that she combines and links all kinds of different cultures and tries to express this in her art,” said Lee.
Guadalupe Pinedo / The Poly Post
‘Transnational Lives in Motion’
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