What Color Am I?

Title: Which Is My Skin?
Year:2021
Size: 62in h x 49in w
Materials: acrylic paint, india ink, embroidery floss on canvas

 
The skin that lays on my bones
What color is it in this social construct
The skin that shapes my eyes
Tell me can you see my chinky eyes
The skin that lays on these bones can it be painted white
You're taught to degrade yourself and laugh
Your skin is your savior and your enemy
The skin that lays on your bones is a shade to dark and a shade to light

What Color Am I? Is a series of work that talks about my struggle of understanding my racial identity as someone of color raised by white adoptive parents. What does it mean to be Asian? To be Chinese? To be “yellow”? To be “white”? To be American? Where do people draw the racial lines and how do they categorize race? 

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Title: Chink
Year: 2021
Materials: embroidery floss on fake chinese silk
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I was adopted from China, ethnically I am Chinese but I was raised “white”. I lived in a “safe neighborhood” and all my neighbors were predominantly white. I went to a “good public school” which was predominately white. To a certain extent I felt like I had white privilege especially if I was with my white parents. Some days I forgot that I was not white while other days it was blatantly clear that I was not white.  Understanding my racial identity was confusing growing up because of the ambiguous position of the transracial adoptee.

 

 As a person of color with white parents I have experienced gatekeeping from both the white and Asian American community. I was not always accepted as someone who is Asian nor was I always accepted as someone who was American. I didn’t grow up in a Chinese American household so I don't necessarily have a relationship with certain mannerisms and cultural understanding that people associate with “being Chinese or Chinese American.” I didn’t understand or speak Chinese but ethnically and physically I look Chinese.

 

 Growing up people would sometimes point out that I was not white like my parents. There was a continuous relationship of debt, impostorism and assimilation. They would point out how grateful I should be for being saved from the country that is my motherland. With the continuous redirect of “it was so kind of them to have adopted you”, “you must feel so lucky to be alive”, “ your parents are such angels for doing that”. With those words they placed an invisible debt on my shoulders, the debt of needing to prove my worth as someone given the opportunity to navigate a white reality because remember I’m lucky. After all so often we look at adoption as a thing that can only be good and happy without addressing the trauma, the history and the complex reality of it.

 

 So often the question of race in transracial adoption is the elephant in the room because remember "it doesn’t matter what you look like you are my child". With the relationship of having upper middle class white parents sometimes people especially people who care about you see your parents whiteness and privilege as extension of me.  There is this concept that my parents' privilege will protect me and erase my Asianness because after all I’m not a “real Asian”. I’ve been told that I'm like a twinkie or like a banana yellow on the outside and white on the inside. I’ve been told that I'm practically white, does that make me white? And yet although I am not a “real Asian” although I'm “practically white” I am still foreign, I am still an imposter. I still remember all those parents telling their child to be nice to me because I'm adopted. The continuous stares and the questioning of the legitimacy of my family.

Title: My name is?
Year: 2020
Size: 63in h x 61in w
Materials: acrylic paint, gesso, india ink, embroidery floss on canvas

 
My name is…
My name is chinky 
My name is whitewashed
My name is american 
My name is chinese 
My name is ling ling ching chang chan
My name is FOB 
My name is twinkie 
My name is the adopted girl
My name is…
What is my name?
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Title: Fob (Fresh Off The Boat)
Year:2020
Size: 13in h x 11.25in w
Materials: embroidery floss on fake chinese silk
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I claim to be transracial not because I see myself as white. I do not see myself as white and I know that the world we live in will never see me as truly being white. I claim this identity because of my upbringing. I feel it is important to acknowledge it because it has greatly shaped me. Through adoption so much of my Chinese history, culture and identity has been stripped and erased. I know nothing about who I was except for what my paperwork and photos tells me and even that I can’t completely trust. Growing up I have learnt only of a curated China and even today I can only truly study China through a westernized lens because of my assimilation. And yet I still see my Chinese heritage as a part of my identity.

 

 I struggle with the feelings of being to Chinese to be American and yet to American to be Chinese. While at the same time I have a relationship to both identities and communities. As a transracial adoptee there is a duality to my identity. 

 

My series What Color Am I? Unpacks this complicated racial understanding. Although I focus on my own story and narrative. I feel the transracial experience shines a light on the complications of how we categorize race in our racialized society. 

Title: What Color Am I?
Year:2020
Size: 62.5in h x 57.5n w
Materials: oil paint, acrylic paint, gesso, india ink, embroidery floss on canvas

 
Sometimes I wonder am I supposed to be white
All my neighbors were white
Sometimes I forget that I look different
I had a "good" education
I lived in a "safe" neighborhood
People are not suspicious of me
I was raised white
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Title: You Are Like A Twinkie
Year: 2019
Size: 15.75in h x 15in w
Materials: embroidery floss on fake chinese silk
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This series consists of two parts embroidered Asian slurs and obscured self portraits with poems embroidered into the painting that are then obscured with a block of paint. Within the series my base colors throughout are red, yellow and white. I choose yellow and white because these colors are still so often used to describe my race. And red to describe the blood that is that of a human, the blood  that lies under my skin no matter the color you choose to see.

 

First I'll address my embroidery pieces and why I made the choices I did. I choose to embroider on “fake chinese silk” I say fake because when you see that style of fabric many people think that’s what chinese silk is but the material melts meaning that there are synthetics in it thus not being real silk because silk is a natural fiber therefore it burns and doesn’t melt. I choose this material as a play on my own labelized identity as a “fake Asian” like this silk I “look Chinese”  and I am but I’m not. Which puts into question how we label what is and is not a part of these categories. What are the lines of the social construct that are flexible and fluid. After all what is and is not considered to be a part of this category can change depending on the narrator. 

 

I decided to embroider Asian slurs because so often they are looked passed. So often they’re seen as funny. Although my parents are white their presence can not erase the fact that I still experience these words. These words are things that have also affected and shaped my own racial consciousness.

 

The second part of my series are self portraits that are obscured with words, images and layers of gesso. I decided to obscure the portraits because so much of my own identity is obscured by layers of racial ambiguity. I then decided to embroider poems onto the pieces. The poems create a complicated narrative about my own racial understanding as a transracial adoptee. I decided to embroider the words and then cover them because physically they are there but unless you take a close look at the painting the words are easy to miss. It’s almost like an eraser of the words, an eraser of  what is shared. For these paintings I feel it is symbolically important to have a sense of layers and  obscurity because the story of race and what it means to be transracial is not so straightforward and black and white. I think  there is more nuance to the story of identity and the social construct of race and racism. These complexities are also an important part of how we as a society understand important issues such as race and racism.

Title: Hey Lingling
Year: 2020
Size: 20in h x 15.5in w
Materials: embroidery floss on fake chinese silk
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