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Arts & Culture

Art talk concludes Asian American History Month

Contributing Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010

“Why are humans attracted to all things shiny? It evokes the warmth of sunlight,” said Pook Panyarachun ’10 about the appeal of using bright saffron colors in her sculptures.

Panyarachun, who was raised in Thailand, and Jenny Lee, a Boston University graduate of Chinese descent, talked about their artwork at “Art Worlds of the Asian American Diaspora,” the closing convocation of Brown’s Asian American History Month.

Lee began with a slideshow of photographs of her family and visit to China in 2007, during which she “internalized the culture.” She then showed images of her various artworks, many of which are strongly influenced by Asian art and topography.  

“Asian art is more stylized, and it pays a lot of attention to lines,” Lee told the audience, explaining that she finds herself unintentionally drawn to it. She also finds that there is a greater focus on angles and sharpness in Chinese art, whose use of tools and colors is different from other countries’.

A biology major in college, Lee incorporates science into her art in “Evolution and Growth,” which symbolizes the metamorphosis of friendships, but also features Chinese calligraphy and represents the close relationships Lee observed between women in China.

Panyarachun then showed images from a collection of her saffron sculptures.

“It is a very yellow, organic color. Growing up in Thailand, I would see monks wearing saffron shawls, and it is a color that is ingrained in my mind. I associate it with home, ritual and Buddhism,” she said during her presentation.

She also described some of the other Thai influences in her work: the symbol of a gourd to represent prosperity in “Meditation Gourd” and the reference to the Buddhist concept of rowing across the river of human suffering to reach nirvana in “Boat,” located in the Leung Gallery.

“I grew up with (the Thai culture) so it’s something I think about on a daily basis,” said Panyarachun, who compared the process of creating artwork to meditation because of the devotion both activities require.

This event signaled the culmination of the 30th annual Asian American History Month and the 10th annual Southeast Asian Heritage Week.

“We thought it would be interesting to see how the Asian identity manifests itself in art,” said Chenelle Chin ’12, co-organizer of Asian American History Month. “Throughout the month, we explore issues that affect the Asian American community in different forms: art, music, theater … overall, it was a success.”

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