WHERE IS SAM WO?

 

Selected for and Presenting at JADE WAVE RISING: PORTRAITS OF POWER 

Presented by Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) and Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) for the 26th annual United States of Asian America Festival (USAAF)

*ABOUT THE EXHIBITION*

Presented by Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) and Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) for the 26th annual United States of Asian America Festival (USAAF)

What is power? Who wields it? How can it be owned, contested, and exercised? For Asian women whose embodiment of power has culturally been limited to either Dragon Lady, Lotus Blossom or Tiger Mom, these questions are ever more prevalent. The true definition of power remains elusive and open to inquiry.

Kicking off AAWAA’s 35th anniversary, JADE WAVE RISING: PORTRAITS OF POWER celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander woman agency and resilience in a multitude of manifestations. Jade is a rare mineral imbued with different metaphysical and cultural meanings, used since prehistoric times to adorn objects associated with power such as ceremonial daggers, jewelry, and crowns. Using jade as an allusion to more diverse definitions of power, the exhibition pays homage to overlooked figures in our history and establishes new legacies of leadership for a more equitable future for AAPI women everywhere.

We invite artistic individuals, collectives, and organizations to submit works that explore, extricate, subvert, and define power in the context of AAPI cultural heritage, history, and socio-political landscape. Join us in a rising wave of communal and creative unity.

*IMPORTANT DATES*
Opening Reception: April 27
Exhibition: April 27 – May 21

*EXHIBITION VENUE*
Main Gallery – SOMArts Cultural Center
934 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
www.somarts.org

ARTIST'S THOUGHTS

I love Kung Fu and Samurai movies. But when the white saviors defeat the nefarious Chinese restaurant opium dens or learn from the wise sushi-chef-cum-ninja-master, accompanied by the Asian femme hottie, I’m uneasy. I want to challenge these tired tropes with a big, pink, velvety gun. Today, in full campy glory, I – we – can be heroes. 

In 1979, when I emigrated from Japan to rural Washington, the only place to find Asian food was the Golden Wheel Buffet. Of course, it wasn’t truly Chinese cuisine, with its thickly breaded sweet-and-sour pupu platters. But it was the only place that had anything resembling soy sauce. I remember the placemats explaining “the Oriental zodiac.’’ To find any taste of home, I had to accept the strange, exoticized version of who others thought I was.

Over the years, conversation with other Asians often turns to our latest encounter with microaggressions, the dumb things people say. We put up with it, sometimes internalizing the stereotypes, disempowering ourselves. We tell ourselves that it’ll get better, if only we excel and become more ‘American.’ Families and communities tell us, “don’t rock the boat.”

Power is always on my mind. I navigate the world conscious of contextual interpersonal dynamics, deploying tactics of power and agency. Even femme aesthetics, like manicured nails, can be weaponized. This is my daily reality as an Asian American Queer Femme immigrant. 

There’ve always been discriminatory laws and violence against American Asians. In my piece, I list just a few of these laws. The climate has worsened recently, but we’re no longer the quiet, model citizens we were. While I appreciate the sentiment of the hashtag #StopAsianHate, this still feels like respectability politics. It’s time for another, wider mindset. It’s time we own our fierceness and power.