Application for Naturalization
No Longer Available
Photo transfer, cut paper
26.75 x 20.5"
My cut paper work explores the concepts of departure and arrival in the context of the diasporic self and communities, and our collective divergence from nature to the urbanized world. It all began with my own migration from Hong Kong to America. My earliest works mined my personal history, using images of Chinese architecture, symbols, and landscapes to explore my position as a Chinese woman in the U.S. These works sought to reconcile notions of my old and new self, and to bridge these two identities into a more authentic reflection of who I am.
As I explored my place in the world, I became fascinated by my physical space, especially as it pertained to the natural world. Nature is something we fantasize about and desire, while at the same time colonizing it through relentless urbanization. My work began to incorporate images of nature alongside the man-made constructs that were destroying it — from busy highways to towering skyscrapers — looking at how we depart from the natural to the built world, despite our innate desire for the former.
Ideas of departure and arrival became all the more significant and urgent to me after the 2016 election. As immigration became threatened and we saw an escalating human rights crisis at the border I began to focus on the US / Mexico border and the position of the immigrant in America. In many ways this signaled a return to my earliest works, reflecting on migration and the diaspora, but now in the context of the public discourse. My work became populated with motifs of stars, gates, tiaras, fences, and oceans, often still drawing on my personal migration, but now tied to a much broader communal issue.
Throughout all of these works the idea of community remains central. From the way migration disperses one’s community, to how our destruction of nature in favor of urbanization has shifted us away from communal to individual living. We are constantly departing and arriving, forcing us to negotiate a tenuous and ever-changing balance with ourselves, with our community, and with our natural world.
The very medium that my cut paper practice centers around is inspired by the generational and communal art of Chinese paper cutting. While the practice of communal paper cutting has largely disappeared, my use of Xuan (rice) paper continues to tie me to that tradition, and to ground me in that connection to both my ancestors and contemporaries.