Courtesy Janos GerebenCindy Shih’s watercolor “Selfishness

Courtesy Janos GerebenCindy Shih’s watercolor “Selfishness

Asian-American artists fighting stereotypes

In one corner is Cindy Shih’s Bill O’Reilly-inspired, impish watercolor. In the other, Mido Lee’s upside-down, nude self-portrait with a riveting personal message.

They are on view at SOMArts Cultural Center in “underCurrents and The Quest for Space,” featuring a wide variety of works by 30 Asian-American women.

The exhibit aims to counteract common stereotypes about Asian-American women, artists say, and their “continued invisibility.”

Curated by international Asian and Asian-American art expert Inson Choy and presented by the Asian American Women Artists Association and the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, the show’s pieces were selected by a jury including Choy, Asian Art Museum Director Jay Xu and Mills College art history professor Mary-Ann Milford.

China-born Potrero Hill resident Li Ma’s 10-by-10-by-15-foot fabric installation is a translucent tent without an apparent message other than intrinsic beauty.

But Taiwanese artist Lee, a San Francisco resident, makes a searing personal statement in “Thorns,” her self-portrait.

“After 12 years of sexual abuse from members of my family, male bodies have become the forbidden thorns of my life. … To position male nudes as a female photographer, I finally regained the faith as an able person instead of a helpless victim,” she says. “Because of the support of these models I can finally pluck the thorns from the wound and live free again.”

Abstract art and near-traditional landscapes mix with quirkily individual works, such as first-generation Taiwanese-American Castro resident Shih’s watercolor portrait of an imperious woman titled “Selfishness,” with ink inscriptions.

The work is a parody of, and response to, Bill O’Reilly’s comments about Asian people — that they are not “liberal” and are “industrious and hard-working.” Shih says O’Reilly’s label “reinforces the ‘model minority’ stereotype and presumes that being liberal is synonymous with lazy.”

Local, national and international artists are represented in the show.

San Francisco participants include: Isabelle Thuy Pelaud (from Vietnam), Valerie Soe (American-born Chinese), Xiaojie Zheng (from China), Cynthia Tom (San Francico-born Chinese), Kay Kang (from Korea), Choppy Oshiro (from Hawaii, of Japanese origin) and Shizuye Seigel (third-generation Japanese-American).

Other striking objects in the exhibit are Judy Shintani’s installation of “Unbound Kimonos Deconstructed,” Salma Arastu’s dazzling acrylics and Shari Arai DeBoer’s semi-abstract etchings-watercolors.

Mitsuko Brooks’ prints-and-poems combinations, with text by Michele C. Lee and Ono No Komachi, deal with her experience of “being part of the Asian diaspora.” Although she left Japan at age 3 and grew up in the U.S., she says she has a deep longing to belong to Japan, while still identifying with her “ingrained American upbringing.”

Her landscape print series “Dissonances of the Diaspora,” depicting a hapa (mixed-race) woman immersed in constructed landscapes, she says, “expresses my feelings of environmental abandonment.”

IF YOU GO

underCurrents and The Quest for Space

Where: SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan St., S.F.
When: Noon to 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays; closes May 25
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 863-1414, www.somarts.org
Note: A free panel discussion moderated by the show’s curator is at 1 p.m. May 25 at SOMArts.

Art & MuseumsartsentertainmentFine ArtsJay Xu

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Outdoor dining, as seen here at Mama’s on Washington Square in North Beach in September, is expected to resume in San Franisco this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to reopen outdoor dining, personal services

San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to… Continue reading

Patients line up in their cars to receive a shot at The City’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Legislation would require SF to create a public COVID-19 vaccine plan — fast

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would have to come up with… Continue reading

Ian Jameson (center) organized a group of tenant rights activists and assembled at the El Monte City Hall to demand that the City Council there pass an eviction moratorium barring all evictions during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California would extend eviction protections to June 30 under proposal

Legislation released Monday would also subsidize rent for low-income tenants

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Comedian and actor Bob Odenkirk is among the dozens of performers in Festpocalypse, streaming this weekend to benefit SF Sketchfest. (Courtesy photo)
Bob Odenkirk joins star-studded Festpocalypse gang

Virtual comedy benefit replaces SF Sketchfest this year

Most Read