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Happy AAPI Heritage Month! (History + Artist Spotlights)

Updated: May 23, 2021

Dear San Fernando Valley,


Happy Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month! This is a very special month for DSFV because we’re partially led by AAPI youth leaders (especially the Blog and Creative Writing teams ;))!


Image Credit: Artwork/art collage done by Heidi Kang for revival issue of Gidra zine, Photo Courtesy by Los Angeles Magazine. (30 Revolutionary Asians And Pacific Islanders To Celebrate For AAPI Heritage Month — Negra Bohemian)

For some brief history, AAPI Heritage Month takes place in the month of May and was first started on May 4, 1978 with the help of former Capitol Hill staffers Jeanie Jew and Ruby Moy. The first recorded Asians to arrive in North America were a group of Filipinos called “Luzonians” in the 16th century. The first wave of Asian immigration to the US occurred in the early 19th century to the early 20th century until the introduction of exclusionary immigration legislation. During the 19th century Asians, particularly Chinese immigrants, were often targets of discrimination. According to Times, “one incident involved 17 men and boys murdered in Los Angeles in what is now known as the Chinese Massacre of 1871, another involved San Jose’s Chinatown being burned and destroyed.” As a result, this prompted people such as Jeanie Jew to push for a heritage month dedicated to the Asian community so that they may remember their history. May was chosen to represent AAPI month in order to commemorate the arrival of the first known Japanese immigrants to the US and to honor the completion of the transcontinental railroad that was built by 20,000 Chinese American workers.


Image Credit: ACRS via Celebrating the Contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders


If you want to learn more, check out this informative article by Time Magazine: The Story Behind Asian Pacific American Heritage Month | Time


Los Angeles County, which includes most of the San Fernando Valley, has one of the largest AAPI populations in the United States, second only to New York City. This is evident in its encompassing Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little Bangladesh, Thai Town, Historic Filipinotown, and more. In these parts of LA, you can experience the rich cultures of these communities.


Learn more with this guide: Explore Asian American Landmarks & Monuments in Los Angeles

 

With the San Fernando Valley being a great mix of AAPI communities, there are many amazing artists here as well! (*Note: There are so many talented AAPI artists around the San Fernando Valley and in California that it would be impossible to cover everyone. These amazing artists are not representative of the whole AAPI population because our community is so diverse. These were a few local artists that we really appreciated; however, if you know any other budding AAPI artists in the Valley or California in general, please let us know because we would love to feature them!)


Phung Huynh

Image Credit: Phung Huynh, graphite on pink donut box, 25" x 30.5," 2019 - 2020 (Phung Huynh)


Phung Huynh is a Los Angeles based artist and educator who studied at USC, Art Center College of Design, and New York University. Through her art she conveys a message about cultural perception and representation. According to Phung’s website “Huynh challenges beauty standards by reconstructing images of the Asian female body vis-à-vis plastic surgery to unpack how contemporary cosmetic surgery can create obscurity in cultural and racial identity.” Phung’s work has been showcased both in the state as well as around the world, such as on personalized California license plates and the Botanical Gardens. If you want to see more of Phung’s work, check out her website or visit some of the places she’s been commissioned to!

 

Felicia Liang


Another wonderful Asian American artist based in California is Felicia Liang, who has been featured in the LA Times along with other AAPI artists. Her work vibrantly represents the Asian American community in California, especially the Chinese American community. According to her website, Liang “began using art as a therapeutic way to explore her identity, her place in the world, and build community,” and that “She’s interested in weaving storytelling into works to make people feel uplifted, seen, and introspective from the shared experiences and everyday things depicted.” Her artwork offers a valuable perspective and contribution to the Asian American experience and community. Check out her pieces on her website!

 

Janel Foo

Edit: Corrections have been made to fix the incorrect information and poor wording within Ms. Foo's highlight. We apologize sincerely to Ms. Foo.

Image Credit: Photo by Mel Melcon, Photo Courtesy by LA Times.


Although glass paintings have gained a lot of popularity due to the social media app Tik Tok, there is another way glass can be used to create art. This art form is known as stained glass. While glass painting is more so painting directly on glass, stained glass becomes “stained” through the use of adding metal oxides or metal powders to molten glass. After the glass is colored, pieces of stained glass can be put together to create a variety of designs and pieces. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact time stained glass was invented, but The Stained Glass Association of America explains the possibility that Egyptian or Mesopotamian potters were the first who accidentally discovered it around 2750 and 2625 BC. Today, we can see several different ways in which stained glass is used to create a multitude beautiful pieces of artwork, many of which can evidently be seen to be created by artist Janel Foo.


Janel Foo is a talented Asian American stained glass artist located in Pasadena, California who has been working full time on her craft for the past seven years. Currently, her work can be found in some pop up shops, but she can also be commissioned by clients to create specific stained glass art pieces for them. Although initially intimidated by it, Janel found joy in creating stained glass pieces because of her love for design. She is most notable for her unique use of colors, since she especially focuses on color palettes. She is also the founder and an organizer of Create to Stop Hate, which is an AAPI Artists Auction where 100% of the proceeds go to supporting the organization Stop AAPI Hate. We hope to see more of Janel Foo’s stained glass work flourish in the San Fernando Valley and are inspired by her leadership! Read more about her in this LA Times article or on her website. Follow her on Instagram at @janelfooglassworks.

 

As we know, these past few months have been difficult for the AAPI community, as we have an upsurge of hate crimes. We at DSFV condemn racism, xenophobia, and discrimination of any kind. Although this highlight of AAPI artists may not directly alleviate the struggles our community has been facing with, we hope that it will serve as a reminder to not spread hate, but rather appreciation and respect for one another. Here is also a link to some Anti-Asian Violence Resources.


Sincerely,

DSFV Team

 

P.S. Here are some museums to visit sometime in the future!

... and some other cool murals or outdoor artworks done by Asian American artists in Los Angeles with this blog by Eric Brightwell: Explore Asian American Landmarks & Monuments in Los Angeles


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