Blue and White. Porcelain. 2014.
If we could watch in secret the rape of each lock, we should be able to give a series of pictures of human agony such as life but rarely presents, for we may be sure that, as a rule, a young woman almost as soon lose her life as that glorious appendage, on which so much of her beauty depends.
—Andrew Wynter, 1866.
Hairs are tiny threads that link us to our past and present stories. These delicate strands have the power to identify us to the world, and this world can make assumptions about us based on its shape, color, and condition. Hair is contradictory; it is desirable or disgusting, pure or processed, innocent or sinful, an afterthought or a crowning glory. It is an extension of the body that grows in the womb before birth, and in the coffin after death, and the rate or length of growth is beyond our control. In Dark and Lovely, my focus is the emotive power of domestic objects and rituals that fix, organize, soothe, and beautify our hair—our lives.
My work has always dealt with identity, with the sense of being in-between, an impostor, neither fully Chinese nor Caucasian. I have learned to live with the constant question about my appearance: “What are you?” I change my response depending on my hair, make-up, clothes, what I am doing, where I am at, or what I am eating—who I am at the moment. I find people are rarely satisfied with my answer. I explore this conflict through my chosen media—porcelain, which nods to my Chinese heritage but also represents “pure” white—the white desire I find in both cultures. Bound by these conditions, I stitch together my individual nature, unravel the pressures of conformity, and forever experience pain in search of perfection.
Pretty Sister. Porcelain, human hair. 2014.
Three Questions for the Artist
1. Mansion, Apartment, Shack, or House, and why? In a relationship, I prefer a house. I love being able to curate a home, a place together that feels like our own private island. When I was not attached, I preferred an apartment. A tiny space that is all mine surrounded by other tiny spaces felt safe to me.
Ugly Sister detail. Porcelain, human hair. 2014.
2. Tell us about a book, a film, or an album from childhood that affected the way you look at the world. As a young girl, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell had a profound impact on me. I couldn’t put it down and I would try to read it while walking home from school. The cruelty, suffering, and pain that the horses experienced at the hands of others taught me valuable lessons in the importance of kindness and empathy.
Half. Porcelain, human hair. 2014.
3. Slow death or instantaneous? Burning or freezing? Instantaneous because pain will forever be terrifying and most avoided. Freezing because I would likely fall asleep first.