ICYMI: THE AZN ROOM

Wow, the studio open tour was a whirlwind and certainly a blast! It kicked Trina and I into high gear and it was well worth the fruits of our 2-3 months of intense labor. The media below doesn’t quite capture the experience, but ICYMI, I think these will give you a good idea of the second successful collaboration between me and Trina. Let’s call it high concept no brow art that’s meant for museums more than living rooms (and apparently haunted houses??? #killinit).

Here’s a video of the art show Trina and I put on! The VHS videos playing don’t show up well because of the tracking on the “dead media,” as coined by Trina. Um, and yeah I did make this video for my aunt and my mum lol originally I thought my mum wasn’t going to make it and then she did #anxiety

Here’s the interview we did for INSIGHT on NPR/Capital Public Radio! You bet that’s going on our CVs.

Our shared Instagram account @theaznroom

Instagram post from Verge Art of Trina, Natalye Valentina, and me at Cap Radio

God Girl on Instagram

Some photos a friend took

Footage of the lanterns at night by Trina

Trina and I singing to us singing karaoke at the Verge’s reception for the open studio tours lol

Trina’s going to take additional photos later this week of some of our newer works.

Thankful for getting pulled into this opportunity to make art with my bff/partner/#homegirl Trina in the Verge Center for the Arts’ Studio Open Tours in Sacramento.

Here’s descriptions Trina/I wrote:

THE AZN ROOM    SEPTEMBER 15-16, 2018

A song came out in the early 2000’s, a take on the 2pac song, “Changes”, called “Got Rice” or often referred to as the “AZN Pride” song. The lyrics beg the question: Got rice, bitch? Got rice? Got food, got soup, got spice?

Hungry to cling to an identity in our teenage years, a lot of 1st and 2nd generation Asian Americans held this song in high regard as our representation of our youth. We can all agree the song is very problematic, and upon revisiting it at a much later age, it reminds us not only of our formative years, but of a culture and experience we Asian Americans all share.

As adults, away from our families and places of comfort, the white workspaces and communities offer isolation in the form of “I practically grew up [insert Asian community]” and “I’ve had [insert ethnic food] once”. With a cringed and baffled smile, we navigate through adulthood, attempting any strategy to rail against the stereotypes the AZN Pride song had to offer. And in secret, amongst each other, at dinner and on karaoke nights, in the markets of Asia Town USA, and every time we ask our white friends to take their shoes off, we admit to ourselves the song also sings about the things that make us and our households special.

How do we connect to a community we feel so far away from? What brings us comfort and how do we unwind after a long hard day of “hey, do you think this is racist?”

Every day we relinquish a part of ourselves to fit in to this country, and this is the place where our Asian American identities lie. Not quite Asian, not quite American, but a melding confusion of guilt, shame, and pride. Guilt for not knowing where we come from, shame of where we come from, pride for what we came from.

This is not yours, this is ours.
Got rice, bitch? Got rice?
Anything you can show that is nice?
Got cash, got moves, got thoughts like us?
Fuck no, hell you white, you’ll never be like us.

Trina Fernandez, 2018, To Mom, Lovee
Mixed Media

The Japanese may have created the art of Karaoke, but it’s Filipinos that are the true purveyors of the sport. The popular activity is prevalent in Filipino households via portable Karaoke machines, in bars and eateries, and now widely available on YouTube. Not unlike movies, Karaoke offers us the words that we’ve failed to say, and the ability to be who we want for four minutes and sixteen seconds -a form of entertainment to relieve stress and the permission we need to dream.

My relationship with my family is amicable, we don’t know much about each other, maybe not because we choose to, but because we won’t allow ourselves to be close. My mother, the one I identify with most, from a young age has always shared her interest in popular music and movies. At 17, a former cheerleader, ¼ Spanish-⅛ Chinese, someone Leif Garrett once described as “Groovy”, got pregnant by a farm boy, and traded whatever future she had to move from the Philippines to the United States with her daughter and husbands family.

That is as much about my mother as she’ll ever let me know. Through the music and movies she forced me to watch and listen to these items she identified with, and years later, I am only now trying to piece these feelings together in efforts to understand her before she’s gone.

Before you walk uncomfortably through a hundred lanterns dedicated to God Girl, learn more about this azn God… Girl.

Cat Hellxia, 2018, Path to Praise
Mixed Media

She is all-knowing, all-powerful, and pretty apathetic about her own agency. Her Other like a brother, Skeleton Space Man, is a trickster goofball. And their plaything is Sleep Walker – he passed away in comatose and exists to serve God Girl and Skeleton Space Man by possessing and interfering with mortal lives.

You may be asking, “What does it all mean?” Just have faith and meaning will come to you, probably. Or you can just make it up, whatever. But whatever your conclusions, be sure to take your beliefs too seriously, practice devotion to your fear of the unknown, and thank God Girl for any achievements in your life. God Girl deserves all praise. We would be nothing without Her. Thank GOD GIRL. A man!

CRAFT STATION by Hellxia: Religious Altaration

Now that you have been touched by the spirit and disembodied body of God Girl, you may offer her your prayers in whatever form you please. We have included here some tiles, Sharpie markers, rubbing alcohol, sponges, Q-Tips, and dust blasters for you to experiment with. Offer God Girl your creativity or embarrassing lack thereof. No one is judging you but God Girl. In the end, God Girl is always watching, is always knowing, and is always waiting.

If you have any dumb questions, Reverend Cat Hellxia is available to hear out your concerns and preach at you.

Trina Fernandez and Cat Hellxia, 2018, the aZn room
Mixed media on shitty TV

Asians in our room free to do what we want, judgement free zone, MOM AND DAD.

Trina Fernandez, 2018, Manananggal
Mixed Media

The manananggal (from the word tanggal, meaning to remove or separate) is a creature from Filipino folklore often depicted as a severed torso of a vampire like woman. In the evening she sprouts giant wings and separates herself from her lower half, and while dragging her intestines through the sky, she hunts for men and pregnant women, hungry for the hearts of unborn children.

This manananggal, is a literal separation between my Filipino and American identity. Never feeling like I belonged to either, and finding it impossible to be both, she represents the push and pull of where my family came from and who I want to be.

All Filipinos are connected through blood and faith, and this manananggal is both our complicated past and an unknown future.

Trina Fernandez, 2018, Back Home
Mixed Media

Thousands of overseas Filipinos send balikbayan boxes (literal translation being “repatriate box”) to their family in the Philippines every year. Filled to the brim with everyday items like….Kleenex, Lipton Tea, Oreos, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Band-Aids, etc… everyday things to show our family back home that we care and miss them, and to show our desire to one day spend our lives together again.

“Have you been back home?” is a question I’m asked frequently, I think, because to a lot of Filipinos don’t consider America home. How can I share my life with a place I know nothing about? A place seen as poverty stricken and relaxed, third world and beautiful, dangerous and familial. To answer the question, no I’ve never been “back home”, but there is a constant lump in my throat filled with the words I wish to speak in a language I barely know, a longing for the flavors I can’t seem to cultivate, and a want for the loving embrace of faces like mine welcoming home. So where are these feelings kept, but in these boxes waiting in between the every day.

Anxiety fills THE AZN ROOM

Look, it’s us!

Trina and I made it into the Verge’s e-blast! #GrabTheGuide and come see us on September 15 and 16!

I’ve got two weekends left to prepare for the Verge Center for the Arts’ Studio Art Tour. I got a God Girl altar project with lanterns and tiles, and also that project about idealizing the relationship among my parents and I.

The latter project – not so hot. I’ve got like 2 pieces done lol Luckily, we’ll also be showing some larger scale older work. If y’all remember Generalizasian, get ready for a blast from the past.

Of the former project, I have completed 67 lanterns – just 3 more to go. The lanterns are covered in images of the holy trio – God Girl, Skeleton Space Man, and Sleep Walker – along with epic biblical messages, noodles (obviously), the burning pizza, and space to think about it all.  You’ll have to bump into the lanterns in order to get to your destination: the altar to God Girl, where you can say a prayer and make a “donation” to the church of God Girl.

Who is God Girl?

God Girl is an all-powerful disembodied aZn God… Girl. She’s got golden skin, flushed cheeks, strange blue/green almond eyes, red lips, and a classic A-line bowl cut.

She is Skeleton Space Man and Skeleton Space Man is her. Skeleton Space Man (SSM) is a trickster, a deviant, a hooligan, a fun and dangerous fellow. What can’t he do? What won’t he do? Not many know about SSM’s tricks or his relation to God Girl.

And then there’s Sleep Walker. A poor lost soul, some kid who passed away in comatose. His parents were devout believers in the aZn faith. They tried to steer their son to the righteous path, but one day he just collapsed, and later passed. They were devastated, of course. Why would God Girl do this to them? What had they done wrong? Had their son brought this upon himself and thus them? Is She such a vengeful God? But surely God Girl took him for a reason. Have faith. Trust in God Girl. Believe that She took Our Son away for the Greater Good™. He is in a better place now, Our Son in aZn Heaven.

Sleep Walker’s parents may be glorified or horrified to know that their son died so he could join God Girl and SSM in aZn Heaven. God Girl saw that Sleep Walker wasn’t a believer, and she was like whatever about it. But SSM saw God Girl seeing that Sleep Walker wasn’t a believer, so he did something about it. He took his own Righteous Path™ and brought Sleep Walker to their heavenly realm so he would believe.

When Sleep Walker arrived, he was like the opposite of like whatever about it. Why was he there? Why was he not here anymore? What was his purpose now? Who had the right to do this to him?

But Sleep Walker was where he was, where he will always be, and where he always has been (time and existence work differently in aZn Heaven). Now he was part of the family, whether he believed it or not. His Purpose™ now was to serve God Girl and SSM as a bridge to the mortal realm. Before, God Girl and SSM could only really watch and tinker around occasionally if they really wanted to. But now it was so much easier for SSMboth of them to actively participate and alter the world they watched. Like, if they liked plain old television before, this was really HD, even 3D or VR sort of stuff! What a time to be God!

Sleep Walker’s unique situation allowed him to possess mortals, making them act a certain way, guiding them forcefully and unbeknownst to them towards different decisions. What fun!

What does it all mean?

My God Girl series started as a naturally point on the path from Generalizasian (angry about stereotypes) and Frustrasian (depressed about stereotypes) to being proud of who I am at whatever point in time, to taking hold of my own agency, to live my life without needing to make everything about race and gender (ya but you’re right, it’s still totally about those and more). God Girl also developed as a response to growing up Christian, then having a WTF moment (I’m agnostic), but still having a super devout parent.

Granted, I have friends who are Christian and it doesn’t bother me (I mean, I still have to read more than a children’s Bible, but objectively so far to me the stories are actually just bad – like, Moses had to convince God not to kill everyone, and then He killed everyone and wouldn’t let Moses into the promised land???). But when you have a relationship with someone who feels the need to shove Christianity in your face all the time, it’s just kind of awkward. And I want other people to feel that way, too lol though I know lots of you already feel me the way people in your life wish you felt the spirit of Christ amiiiiriiiite?

tl;dr – God Girl is just a way for me to work through my relationship with my mum and her relationship with God. 


Follow @theaZnroom on Instagram

Also follow @trinatr0n and @hellxia

I am creating again

Creating art is a weird thing for me. Originally I was going to go to college for art, but changed my major last minute to Business/Accounting. Three years into college, I changed back to art. After college, I wasn’t sure what to do with my degree… Do I go to grad school? Do I become a professor? Do I want to illustrate children’s books? Do I want to be a professional freelance illustrator? Do I want to be a graphic designer? Do I want to keep doing pro bono graphic design without any experience? Do I want to sell art? Do I want to make money off of my own art? What is art to me?

After several years (6 to be precise), I’ve realized a few things:

  1. I don’t like making art for other people. Art is therapy for me. It helps me process.
  2. I am not good at keeping deadlines for my art, aka I am not good at making art for other people.
  3. I am totally enthused if people want to buy art I have already created. Many things contribute to my happiness and money is the gateway to a lot of those things.

Basically, I will never make money off of my art, and I am okay with that. I am good at other things that I can do for day jobs (and I still very much enjoy doing IT help desk work!).

And now more than ever I am creating art in leaps and bounds! I think this is because I finally have a job that doesn’t stress me out (and as an introvert, working remotely means that I am fully charged at the end of a work day!), I make enough money to live comfortably (for now #rent #…mortgage???), and I’m eating better and exercising regularly. In general, I have cut a lot of stressors out of my life (privileged enough to do so) and it feels great.

Now I am stressed, but in a positive way, because I’ve got 50+ lanterns and a bunch of other pieces to finish before the Verge Studio Art Tour on September 8-9!!! The piece I’m most excited to show is an altar to God Girl, but you have to get kind of pummeled by 70+ lanterns with a variety of images and messages on them to get to it (and to get out). I pray to GOD GIRL that I’ll see you there!

p.s. I’m still working on being good about updating my website with actual new images lol

Back to School (sike)

To continue my momentum back into art-making and to prepare for the #aZnroom studio tour in September (8-9), I have created what I think is a pretty rigorous curriculum for myself. Apparently homework assignments, even if fake, are the only things that keep me accountable!

And beyond all this, I am starting a new career as the real life Maurice Moss soon! #ITCrowd

Projects:

  • Film commercial
  • Film music video
  • 100 traditional drawings on 7×10″+ paper in 2 weeks
  • 100 digital drawings in 2 weeks
  • 2 paintings in 2 weeks
  • Draw/paint on 25 paper lanterns in 3 weeks
  • Fix up Asian dolls from thrift store
  • Parent Interviews

Schedule:

(subject to change obvi)

  • April 26 – Art date with Trina, storyboards for music video and commercial due
  • May 4 – Film date with Trina
  • May 11 – 100 traditional drawings due 16 Completed
  • May 12 – 1st interview with parents RESCHEDULED
  • May 16 – 1st interview with parents – reflection due RESCHEDULED
  • May 20 – Film date with Trina CANCELLED
  • May 24 – Asian dolls fixed
  • May 25 – 100 traditional drawings – reflection due
  • June 2 – Film date with Trina
  • June 14 – 2 paintings due
  • June 16 – 1st interview with parents
  • June 19 – 1st interview with parents – reflection due
  • June 29 – 100 digital drawings due
  • June 30 – Commercial and music video due
  • July 20 – 25 lanterns due
  • July 21 – 2nd interview with parents
  • July 24 – 2nd interview with parents – reflection due
  • August 3 – 3rd interview with parents
  • August 7 – 3rd interview with parents – reflection due
  • August 24 – Parent interviews finalized timeline due
  • September 8-9 – The #aZnroom studio art tour
  • September 15 – Studio art tour reflection due

How do you get to know your own parents?

On March 28, 2018, I sent an email to my parents detailing a new art project involving them. But before I get into that, let me take a step back to college.

In college, Nancy and I would talk about our complex relationships with our parents. She brought up wanting to one day preserve her parents’ stories by videotaping them, documentary-style. I thought that was a real cool idea given that I hardly knew anything about my parents, we had terrible conversations (read: none), and neither party knew the other very well (pretty sure my parents thought I was all “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” in high school when I was the one who literally had to be pulled away from studying on my birthday). A project like that would force us to get to know each other, because force seemed necessary at this point.

My relationship with my parents has ebbed and flowed over the years, somewhat improving because I can talk  politics with my dad and I can finally start to acknowledge and move past the flaws in both my parents. Sort of.

Then reading excerpts from an interview with Thi Bui on Vietnamese identity and telling her parents’ stories yesterday resonated with me and I just thought I should blog about my project (and also use this as an opportunity to highlight The Slant, which is like theSkimm, but for Asian American news and Pacific Islander news… aka you should subscribe right now).


Back to March 28, 2018, just a week ago. The email I sent to both of them detailed a sort of “Timeline and Talk” project that I’ve haphazardly named “Where do we come from and where do we go from here?” 

Wait – let’s go back one more day to when Trina and I were having an art date and talking about our complex relationships with our parents (it’s a timeless conversation). When I got home that night, I started writing out what I knew about my mum’s life. It was a big block of left to right, top to bottom text with arrows pointing from one thing to the next. There were a lot of gaps. When did she get her driver’s license and what was that experience like?

Then I started writing overlaying my own timeline to compare with hers. I had never thought about how our individual timelines interacted. I wrote out one for my dad and realized that while I talk with him a lot more, I hardly know anything about his life! After that, I sketched out an idea of how to present this as an art exhibit:

  1. I would work with my parents on fleshing out their timeline, then simplifying and generalizing them for public viewing. That would be the “Where we come from” part.
  2. I would display them in that big block of text, our timelines overlaid, enlarged for people to see. Visible, out in the open – so unlike my parents’ generation to be airing out our dirty laundry.
  3. There would be a secondary timeline – a fictional extrapolation of what I think our timelines could look like moving forward from this project. That would be the “Where do we go from here” part.
  4. It would be cathartic, everyone would be like, “wow talking with your parents – wild stuff,” and then they would participate in the interactive portion where they would start writing their timelines, their family timelines, their partner’s/s’ timelines, etc. I can dream.

I get it – I’m super awkward and I don’t know how to ask my parents about their lives. But I do know how to fabricate and facilitate a space wherein we can genuinely learn and share our stories with one another… and I do know how to art.

So I sent that initial proposal to my parents. One of them reacted positively to the project, but also wanted to remain anonymous.

Well, if I can’t make this into an art exhibit, then at least I will have the personal, private satisfaction of getting to know my parents.

the aZn room

You know who you should follow on Instagram? @theaznroom.

Why follow? Because it’s Trina and I building up towards our open studio tour in September, aka a weekend-long exhibit in Trina’s backyard.

Why “the aZn room”? Because that’s the space we’ve claimed to comfortably be whatever it is we define as the “Asian” part of our Asian American identities. When we confine ourselves to our room, we can explore what it is to NOT:

  • Speak our native languages
  • Understand why we can’t be just American
  • Want to be just American
  • Understand why our families did what they did
  • Be embarrassed about our smelly food or more efficient brooms
  • Compartmentalize to cope and survive

… the room is infinite, the world outside is even greater, and the space between is what we dare to tread. Of course, most of it is nonsensically poking fun at stereotypes – and we revel in it. (lol)

So obviously you should follow us.

Beyond our individual work, we’re also working on a dope series of commercials advertising for this show. Look forward to our top-of-the-charts hit single music video, a home shopping network preview of our work, and more for the limited-time-only low, low price of $Follow @theaznroom.