Exploring the Asian American Identity

Dana Roy


 As we go into our study of Asian American Art, I am very interested in discovering the idea of the “expression of self-consciousness” as described in Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions. The question that Machida is investigating about how artists conceptualize the world resonated with me, making me curious about the creative approach that Asian American artists make in their artistic choices, given the richness of their history in America. After watching the documentary of Vincent Chin’s case, I felt heaviness about how Asian Americans are stereotyped in America.  This week’s readings, which included the beginning to Don Lee’s The Collective, allowed me to switch gears and start focusing on the meaning of identity, multiculturalism and the arts community. One quote that I found interesting was “…identity is generally deemed foundational as a source of meaning” (Machida 19). I notice that the ability to place meaning in what we do requires a sense of having an awareness of who we are and being accepting of who we are to other people. This may inspire Asian American artists because it confronts the responsibility to share their “expressive capital” by what they have experienced through the migration process.

I find that by beginning to read Lee’s The Collective while learning about Asian American art, I can be more sensitive to the confused feelings there are about identity, which include building relationships, communicating, and breaking stereotypes. I believe that this also relates to another idea that was mentioned in Unsettled Visions about “victimhood” in Asian American art. I found it insightful to learn how artists challenge the critique that their art is limited to “victim politics” by using a model such as “disidentification”. I believe that when artists are able to apply different orientating devices to their work, they are able to create art that is thought provoking.

Understanding the “Asian American Aesthetic” is a concept that stood out to me when reading Unsettled Visions. I would like to gain a better understanding of artistic devices such as movement, flow, fragmentation, and multiple points of connection, as was mentioned in the reading. Is there a specific approach that many artists use as a general device to reach audiences so that their work is clear and their message is received?

Finally on the topic of globalization and its effects on the art world, I am interested in exploring the question of what it means to be the “real” Asian. What is being critiqued when artists claim that their work is considered Asian American? Are there certain standards that need to be met in order to approve that an artists’ work reflects Asian American art?  As we go into more research about specific Asian American artists, I hope to gain more understanding about how artists positioned themselves as they explored their identity as an Asian American.

Works Cited

Margo Machida. Unsettled Visions: Contemporary Asian American Artists and the Social Imaginary. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. Introduction, Chapter 1.


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