Q: Can you talk about how you consider the objects and environment in the paintings?
A: The objects and environment are often tied to the personal stories shared with me by my sitter during our Zoom painting session. When I was painting Devon Matsumoto from Sunnyvale, CA, for example, he shared stories with me about how his mother would often make him Spam Musubis to take to school as a child, and we initially bonded over our love for the Spam Musubi. I went on to discover the fascinating history and origin of the Spam Musubi, and its ties to Hawaii and early Japanese immigration, of which Devon’s family was also a part of. Being a 5th generation Japanese whose great-great-grandparents immigrated through Hawaii and survived the internment camps in Utah, he still gets asked to this day “Where are you really from.” We talked about the universal Asian American frustration of what it means to belong in America. The objects in my work—from a nail polish bottle, a Hello Kitty toy, to bubble tea—can often seem like generic, mundane, or stereotypical items on the surface, but are often things that hold significant socio-political histories for how they’ve come to affect the lives of my sitters and other Asian Americans.