Asian Americans Rising Above toward Self-Recognition

Dana Roy

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After being introduced to a few artists’ works in last week’s discussion, I grew more interested in the process of how Asian Americans have found their identity through art. The subject of art, as a means of expressing, got me to thinking about the particular techniques that these artists use in their craft.  However, this week’s readings gave me more than just an insight on the artists’ inspirations; I found that I opened up to the idea of art as a social practice.

By reading about the four artists mentioned in Chapter 2 of Machida’s Unsettled Visions, I became more aware of artists’ reactions to stereotypes of Asian Americans. I felt inspired by how they have chosen to use their art to challenge the way Asians are seen in the West. More specifically, I found that their knowledge of not only their culture’s history, but the history of the West, gave them more leverage to create art that reflects memoirs of their personal past, and connect that with the social environment of the present. Using techniques such as mimicry, masquerade, and self-portrait, I found that these creative ways of being bold about one’s own identity enables society to become more aware that Asian American artists are not just expressing “victimhood” in their art, but are being deliberate in their intent to be social agents of their own culture within a dominant culture.

One quote that I enjoyed from Chapter 2 that was told by Allan deSouza was, “…There was always a sense I could function with more anonymity in a way, I wasn’t immediately marked, I wasn’t overdetermined” (Machida, 84). I felt that this quote resonated with me because I find that when one is searching for their identity, there lies a feeling of comfort in standing outside the boundaries of being labeled or stereotyped. Having “anonymity” may make one feel less captive to a dominant culture, and therefore allow one to explore without being stigmatized.

Another idea I find interesting is to build community as a reality through art. In Arai’s reflection of art in New York she described,” I am interested in the ways that creating these images of community help to reinforce one’s sense of it, whereas very often without any visible evidence you really don’t believe it exist” (Machida 112). This quote made me think about society’s sense of community, and in what ways we make an effort to create community outside of our imagination.  How does art build community? What can our generation contribute to create artwork that builds community in our particular social environment?

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