Before my travel to the Pacifics, G and I embarked on a new project together. We hand painted Yuri Kochiyama in her younger days. If you don't know who Yuri is, she became a civil rights activist in the 60's. She and her husband Bill were in the internment camps in WWII, and later got active with the Harlem Parents Committee, and later Malcolm X died as she cradled his head. She is almost 90 years old and still active, writing letters to political prisoners.
She is the most prominent Asian American civil rights activist ever. The style of the painting is that we didn't use any brushes - it's all made by dipping our hands in paint and putting it on the canvas. We wanted to ask other friends to participate by putting their hands on the painting too because it's a tribute - in the same way her hands laid the foundation for our work, our hands can honor her contributions.
We were partly inspired by the work of modern american artist,Chuck Close, who recreated photos with paint, by concentrating on tiny pieces - one dot at a time. But instead of using fingertips, we used our whole hands.
But most of all, it means a lot to us because me & G met when we were at UMass. Chuck Close used to teach there. The Asian American center there is called the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center. I think most of us who put our hands on the painting, we learned who Yuri was when we were in college, when we developed our Asian American political identity. It all comes together, and this project was the perfect thing for us to do together!
With me & G as the lead artists, we've had contributions from: VyVy Trinh, Theresa Vu, Chengyang Lor, Mike Keo, Wameng Lor, Theresa Hwang, Sophea Khem, Eugene Shih, Chun Fai Chan, Chintra Pich, Lyna Sun, Christophe Lim, Pywat Tan, Mealear Tan, and Morodoc Tan.
On May 19, Yuri turns 88 years old: that's the day we bring this project to a close.