Asian Artist …

    When I was invited to write a blog post, I felt out of place. Am I even an artist?
    I don’t know how I fit into the category of Asian Artists to even be able to write here, but I will let you decide.

    I don’t classify myself as a creative person, quite the contrary indeed: I can’t draw, paint, sculpt, write, sing … well I can sort of dance.
    It’s been nine years since I got into photography, and although I almost began a professional career few years ago, I eventually left it.

    I have done a lot of things, from being a nutritionist, photographer, editor, to auctioning, and marketing.
    I’m not gonna lie, it was a fun ride, but I simply lacked clear direction.

    I always drowned myself in the question, “Where is my place in life, in the world?” until two years ago, when I took a great leap of faith into the world of humanities.

    Being the nice Chinese girl in my household, I “voluntarily selected” (another story we all know too well) the science stream in high school at the age of 14. I went to university thinking sciences would be my only choice and ended up in nutritional science.

    Long story short, I let go of an opportunity to work for the UNFAO in Rome and instead, started a second degree in History and Art History, working to become a historian and curator.

    Artists, up until the 18th century were still seen as crafters and decorators – working labour. However skilled they might have been in technique, or filled with artistry, they did what was asked, or often ordered of them. Their works were representation of the era’s social values, like many of the ones today are, but they rarely reflected the artist’s personal inner world overtly.
    There have been masters who subtly injected personality wittily into their works, yet the major purposes of art were still to document or reenact epics, historical events, literary excellence, or to decorate homes of the aristocrats.

    During the revolutionary century of the 1800s, the modern artist came into form. We saw more and more self expression in art, and the artist’s stance became a central focus in the contextualization of art. Needless to explain, today’s artists see art as a vessel of self expression, be it a political view, a message on social issues, or the artist’s inner world.
    It seems to me, that an artist is defined by their ability to express the self in any form of media (and behaviour in the 21st century).

     Self Portrait

    History writing, or curation is almost never perceived as an art form. We write in a detached third-person tone, and prove a new point of view with factual evidence. I have never thought of how historiography was self-expressive until I read this,

    In my quest to explore the human condition, I have hidden behind my subjects, using them as a scrim to project my own sentiments and feelings.

    – Kate Brown, A Place in Biography for Oneself

    Being the poor writer I am, I don’t know how to encapsulate the epiphanic moment I shared with this article. I realized in that moment, that the choice of specialization is 100% self expressional. As critical, analytical, and detached as my works could be, they are a professional façade shielding vulnerable selves, concealing the intimacy between me and my research subjects.

    Through historical writing and curating, I have been making meaning to construct my own world.

    So, am I an AA yet?

    – janice l.


    Janice specializes in 19th century cultural history, particularly in mass culture, and often get to work with artifacts in western context with Chinese linkage. Right now she is preparing for her first mini exhibit at Richmond Museum in British Columbia. Drop by and say hi!

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