Arts & Culture

Art exhibition explores themes of Asian migration, movement

Asian, Asian American artists express identities through photography, calligraphy, paintings

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, February 26, 2018

Attendees at last Thursday’s exhibition “The Asian Migration: Movement Within and Outside” admired the many art pieces on display, which featured narratives that explored the Asian diaspora.

Last Thursday night saw the usually silent Leung Family Gallery transform into a buzzing art exhibition entitled “The Asian Migration: Movement Within and Outside.” Organized by the Asian American Student Initiative, the event explored the theme of migration and movement of Asian and Asian American communities through various forms of art, including photography, paintings and calligraphy. The exhibition also featured three performance groups: a drumming group, a singer and a dancing group.

Each year, the coordinators of AASI organize a community-focused event, said Sabrina Whitfill ’19, co-coordinator of AASI. This year’s event, which took the form of an art exhibition, “celebrated the arts and creativity within the (Asian/Asian American and Pacific Islander) community,” she said. 

“One of the benefits of having an art exhibition is that it’s an open space,” Whitfill explained. In just a single room, viewers can interact with one another and simultaneously engage with the work of AAPI students from Brown and the Rhode Island School Design, she said.

“The Asian Migration: Movement Within and Outside” aimed to provide a space for different artists — especially Asian and Asian American artists — to express their voices and feelings through art, said Sumaiya Sayeed ’20, co-coordinator of AASI. Most of the artwork featured revolved around the theme of the exhibition — migration and movement — which was chosen by the coordinators. 

“The key event that triggered my passion about this topic was the refugee crisis in past years — specifically, the Rohingya refugee crisis, which affects a place close to home,” said Sayeed, whose parents hail from Bangladesh. “Not only are refugees a global problem, but the fact that it was so close to me really mattered to me.”

Yet, the subject of the exhibition itself is broader than the refugee crisis. Migration and movement “is intrinsic to (Asian American) identities,” Whitfill said. And indeed, a lot of the artwork featured is heavily inspired by specific experiences and the identity of the respective artist.

For instance, a psychedelic painting entitled “Hold my Foot” decked one of the walls of the gallery. Created by RISD student Christine Cho, the painting depicts a scene inside a car, featuring her immediate family. “I was thinking less about a large migration to the United States and (more about) actually navigating the space of America,” Cho said, explaining the connection of her work to the overarching theme of the exhibition. The title of the painting is inspired by memories of Cho’s parents holding her and her brother’s feet while they were in the backseats of the car, as their own arms were too short to reach their parents, she explained. “It’s a memory of intimacy I have with (my family),” Cho added. 

“A lot (of) Asian American memories of migration are about trauma and harder life events — but there’s also memories of intimacy and love in those moments,” Cho said. “I (chose to explore) the latter.” 

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