The The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program have joined together to mount a major exhibit showcasing the work of seven Asian-American artists.
Each piece in the “Asian American Portraits of Encounter” exhibit is an expression
by the artist of what it means to be Asian-American.
Each of the artists was given an entire exhibit room, or hallway, in which to display their work. One of those artists is Roger Shimomura. The third-generation Japanese-American has spent his career fighting racial stereotypes through his art.
the five painting featured here are all self portrait in which his own image takes centre stage .
He describes "Shimomura Crossing the Delaware" as a knock-off
the iconic 19th century painting, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” which depicts the first U.S. president at a historic moment during the American Revolution. “The idea was to place myself as George Washington and hopefully raise all the questions that would go along with it, such as, „What if Japanese-Americans were in a
position in this country where one might have been George Washington?‟ I mean, that is such a stretch to think of that. But I like the absurdity of that extreme.”
“It‟s really insulting to a person like myself who spent two years behind barbed wires during World War II, and who served in the military for several years, to be assumed as being a foreigner.”
Shizu Saldamando was born and raised in California but her art makes strong references to her Japanese and Mexican heritage; two ethnic groups which have faced discrimination.
“I just would hope people sort of questions what they see as normal, what question
their own stereotypes or assumptions about who they see in the paintings. ”
Fine art photographer CYJO was born in Seoul, South Korea, was raised in the U.S. and is now based primarily in Beijing. She is a self-described Kyopo - the Korean term for ethnic Koreans living in other countries.
In 2004, she started photographing Koreans from all around the world. Two hundred forty full-body portraits make up CYJO‟S KYOPO Project. Sixty of the images are enlarged and displayed individually.
Zhang Chun Hong, or Hong Zhang as she is known in the United States, is a Chinese-born artist living and working in the U.S. She uses charcoal images of long, straight hair, presented as scroll paintings, to examine her identity as an Asian-American woman.
Performance artist Hye Yeon Nam who came to the U.S. from Korea to study art, but the struggle to her just a new culture. She dipicts that struggle in a four-part video self-portrait where everyday functions are major challenges.
Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American program, says the exhibit is not designed to make visitors arrive at any particular conclusion but rather to serve as a conversation starter:
“This show is a terrific opportunity for people who want to understand what an Asian-
American portrait of encounter would feel, sound like in some instances, and have that experience, and then walk away from that, hopefully transformed and asking more questions about that topic.”
VOA news , washington .