The artwork in this article is currently featured at the the Wing Luke Museum in the exhibit, Belonging: Before and After the Immigration Act of 1965” at the Seattle Chinatown-International District location in Washington State. The show was curated and organized by Minh Nguyen with the exhibit designed by Janelle Quibuyen, to mark the anniversary of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, that ended the long-running ‘National Origins Formula’ introduced in 1921’s Emergency Quota Act. The bill “activated a sea change in the ethnic and cultural make-up of America”. From the Wing Luke Museum:
The subject seemed fitting, as the museum’s building was repurposed in 2008 from the Freeman hotel that once housed Chinese, Japanese and Filipino immigrants during the pre-World War II era. As we researched content for the exhibit, we wondered what stories existed beyond our purview, among people all around the nation. How do we document our own lives?
We issued a national call for submissions for art and words about immigration. The response we received was tremendous. While the influx of submissions meant that we regrettably couldn’t include every entry, it also confirmed the urgency of collecting and archiving these experiences. We are proud to present this crowd-sourced showcase of some of the many rich stories within our communities. May we continue to find new ways to collect and preserve these narratives, and reclaim how history remembers us.
The exhibit’s opening featured Rich Stolz of OneAmerica, Ray Cortona of WA DREAM Act Coalition and Jess X. Chen, the performer and artist whose work is featured here:
Immigration Is Transformation
by Jess X Chen
From the Immigration Exhibit at the The Wingluke Museum in Seattle which opened Thursday, March 5 2015 (on the 50th anniversary of the Immigration act of 1965) and lasts until March 2016:
Medium: Hand-cut Japanese kozo paper, wire and fishing line.
Description: Created from layers of cut paper, this installation features a red-crowned crane representing East Asia, a kingfisher representing South Asia and a white-tailed tropic bird representing the Pacific Islands.
Patterning their wings is a motif taken from signs that riddle highways along the US/Mexico Border, signifying the crossing of undocumented immigrants. The birds are soaring through a wire border strung with bodies that never made the journey to the other side. The crossing of every border, be it a body of water between America and Asia, or the fence that lines USA and Mexico, is a kind of transformation. This transformation comes at an incredible cost of leaving behind a homelands’ languages, heritages and communities, often at the risk of life itself. Immigration is driven by an undefeatable optimism for better life – mother and child become a migratory bird as they triumph enormous struggles and distances to reclaim life and community in a new country. This installation is dedicated to Americas’ invisibilized immigrant communities as their spirits continue to soar.
Note: The wing motif is also a tribute to artists: Mata Ruda and Lunar New Year who provided much inspiration for the work.
View the digital exhibition of work from many immigrant artists and poets at www.wingluke.org/belonging.