‘Indivisible’ Art Exhibit Reflects On Unique Asian-American Experience

Cheyenne Johnson

Staff Writer

Asian-American artists Cynthia Tom, Shari Arai Deboer and Nancy Hom aim to reveal the unique hardships and joys experienced by Asian-Americans in the art exhibit “Indivisible” being presented currently at the Multicultural Center.

The pieces presented cover a broad range of topics, from the Buddhist in?uence in Asia, to the effect of AIDS on women and children. Despite different mediums and styles, the artists aim to demonstrate a sense of unity and interconnectedness that reveal both the hardships of past prejudices and a deep love of their culture.

The Asian cultural in?uence in these pieces is immediately obvious, whether it be found in Cynthia Tom’s paintings of her grandmothers and family, or Shari DeBoer’s “squiggles,” which are an echo of Chinese and Japanese calligraphy. An interconnected culture and history is present in this artwork, revealing a deep understanding of a past which is both good and bad. DeBoer’s pieces in particular, due mostly to her pen work, have an ancient quality about them, as if they’d been pulled from a scrap book found in the attic. In another section of the exhibit, black and white photos, faded and blurred, show the women’s families, illustrating the effects of the internment camps of World War II. Many of the pieces are haunting, recalling images of open racism and cruelty towards Asian-Americans. But despite the high potential for melancholy, many of the pieces are vibrant and colorful.

A theme that remains prevalent throughout the exhibit is how Asian-Americans have adapted and survived. Nancy Hom’s painting “Honoring My Father” shows her father riding a tiger while wearing a waiter’s uniform and juggling plates. Through this image, Hom conveys the strength she found in her father’s ability to adjust to American living without losing the important and special aspects of his own culture.

The goal of the exhibit is to remind the students and faculty of UC Santa Barbara of the struggles and achievements of not just these three artists, but Asian-Americans as a whole. Viviana Marsano, Associate Director of the MCC, believes the exhibit discusses a lot of topics that are either ignored or have been brushed over in history.

“It is ?lling the gaps in the reality of these people,” said Marsano. “The MCC is aiming to represent artists that would be otherwise unknown.” By revealing their lives in the form of visual media rather than the form of stories or dialogues, it is possible for visitors to reach an emotional connection with the artist and to understand the experiences of an entire culture.

The exhibit runs from October 5 to December 9 in the MCC lounge, next to the University Center. Exhibit hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.