As an artist, I question and explore my identity as a female Chinese American adoptee. I believe that I was abandoned and adopted because I was born female in China while the one child policy was being strictly enforced. In my practice, I look to China to attempt to understand my story. However, I can only understand China through a western lens, with no direct access to my motherland in location, language, history, and culture.
Looking at being Chinese American from this complicated position, I examine issues of racism, discrimination, and fetishism of race and gender. In my art practice, I use various materials and mediums, which range from fiber, drawing, sculpture, and video. I use an interdisciplinary approach to defy definition and to confront questions of identity in its most literal manifestation. I mix conventional art materials like fabric and paint, with unconventional materials such as rice and tea. Incorporated with my layered material manipulations, are words, stories, and poetry, many of which I’ve written myself. The layers and textures of the work manifest as self-portraits, embodying the questioning and contemplation of my complex and complicated identity and experiences.
I use processes that are slow and disciplined. Some are medium specific such as hand sewing, screenprinting, painting, while others are more unconventional such as sewing thousands of grains of rice onto a qipao. Slowness is important in that it creates space and time to reflect on material, conceptual, and personal meaning. Through making, I attempt to make sense of what I know and don’t know about myself, my family, ancestry, and history.
Photo by Abdullah Quick
Sarah Whyte is a Chinese American fiber artist and painter whose work questions her identity. She was born in China and lived in an orphanage. She was then adopted from Jiangxi province, and brought to the United States where she grew up in Virginia and then later moved to Texas. Her work is an exploration of self, trying to make sense of what she knows and doesn’t know about her family, ancestry, history and identity. Her work has been exhibited in various venues in Chicago and she has been the studio assistant for Anne Wilson and Aram Han Sifuentes. She recently received a Bachelors of Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.