I am a Cultural Artist | INDIE ALASKA

I was going through a really hard time in
my life a difficult period and art-making was a way to to save myself
to heal and to exercise all the problems and issues that were causing me to suffer I believe that anybody can become an
extremely talented and masterful artist but not everybody is born with the
passion and the commitment to put in the kind of time that that demands. For me
what drew me to art and where my passion came from was that it’s always been very
healing and so it was a cathartic process for me which kept me doing it. I consider myself chinese-american but
ethnically I am Dai, Mie Tibetan and Vietnamese in particular
being indigenous Chinese has been especially important to me lately there’s an element of divination and all
this of attempting to understand the divine. Divination appears in most
cultures that have ever existed and it can be explained as humanity’s attempt
to either see into the future or find answers through the divine through
various methods the one particular Chinese method of divination was the use
of oracle bones my ancestors actually they would throw turtle shells into
fire and they would read and interpret the cracks that would appear in order to
find answers. My middle name Pu it means divination
in Chinese. It comes from my mother’s side of the family it’s actually my
mother’s middle name because my ancestors on her side of the family were
Oracle’s they tried to tell the future by using bones and other means and in a
strange way I kind of feel like what I do with my paintings is similar it’s helped me understand what my own
indigenous Chinese heritage means to me it’s been surprising to me the parallels
between my own my own heritage and some of the cultural traditions of Alaska
native groups here the Athabascans actually have a practice of using
divination bones as well they would throw bones into the fire to predict
where hunters should look for game you find more there these similarities between
the research that I do into my ancestry and a lot of the traditions up here you
know it’s always really exciting whenever there are those moments of
connection in that way There’s a motif that I’ve included which is tan salmon
skin from a salmon that I caught with my father and I learned how to tan salmon
skin at the Alaskan Native Heritage Center at a workshop that they were
offering with Athabaskan artist Joel Issac. It’s thin, it’s not quite as thin
as this one but it just depends like how you manipulate it.. And Joel Isaac was telling me
that Alaska is actually one of the most recent places to receive salmon runs in
that countries like China and Japan and New Zealand they all had a salmon culture
and salmon skin tanning as well. To me whenever I’m including multicultural
motifs it’s always a celebration of those cultures and with what we share in
common as humans The title of the piece is “The Skin
Remembers” because when your tanning animal skin if you whatever shape you
leave the skin as your tanning it, it will always remember that shape and so
if you leave your skin crumpled up it will dry crumpled up and you will never
be able to straighten it out unless you completely re-soak and redo the skin. The salmon skin stands in for just honoring the experiences we have as
these sensitive creatures that everything that happens to us leaves a
mark This little stone is pure yellow ochre
pigment that new black elder dug out of a riverbank it gave to me and so I
worked this actually into my pigments there’s actually some of this inside her
for the flesh tone My parents took me to some of the
greatest art museums in the world on a regular basis and there was a real mess
to the figures and those paintings that seemed possibly even more real for real
live human being and I think that’s because in a painting of a person you
have a psychological complexity that you can embed through body language to do
how it’s painted the way that I paint its meditative
and the paintings that I grew up with they always seemed meditative to me They function as mirrors I think for
people and they function is mirrors for myself I really had felt like by the time I got
here that I thought I knew what to expect from everything that everywhere I
ever lived was always unpredictable after a certain amount of time but in
Alaska it is constantly surprising me and I think it will always surprise me
and it’s my favorite thing about this place

  1. I can appreciate his insights on the spiritual and shamanic commonality of seemingly disparate cultures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *