Eyedentity Sweater – APAHM 2019
For this year's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I got inspired by an NPR article written by Kat Chow titled, "If We Call Ourselves Yellow." Chow covers different perspectives of how people of Asian descent identify themselves such as how some prefer identifying as “brown” rather than “yellow.”
As a person of Southeast Asian descent, I've grown up wondering my own identity because though I was born in Thailand and raised in the United States, the majority of my blood is Southern Chinese. It took me years to figure out my own identifier because I didn’t see myself as Chinese or American. I didn't feeI I was "Thai" enough to say that I was Thai either because I could barely read or speak the language.
It wasn't until I watched an interview of an Asian American playwright author named Frank Chin where he said that his adopted parents told him to tell those who ask of his heritage that he is "an American of Chinese descent." Since the day I watched that interview, I started identifying myself as an American of Southeast Asian descent. The phrase covered Thailand and Southern China as well as acknowledging my history as an American and it felt like home.
I took this concept of identity and combined it with the racist ideologies built by Americans trying to classify different Asian bodies. In 1942, the US Army and Navy gave out a pamphlet with a comic strip titled, “How to Spot a Jap” in order to help Marines in China discern between Chinese and Japanese people. The comic strip used certain eye shapes and skin color to show the difference and even said that Chinese people walk differently from Japanese people.
With all this information, I drew eye studies of people from all different parts of Asia from Indonesia to the Middle East. The main identifier of someone who is "Asian" mainly comes from their eyes so by illustrating the eyes of different people across Asia, the qualities that discern between an East Asian to South Asian person are blurred.
The back artwork are all the identifiers I could think of that many Asian Americans adhere to, showing that identity isn't static and that the beauty of identity as a person of color comes from the ability to choose.
• Charcoal Heather, 55% Cotton, 45% Polyester
• Plastisol ink screenprinted in house
• Please wash inside out
• Photos by Allyson Ta and Miguel Olap
• Models: Allyson Ta, Miguel Olap, Uyen Tran, Eric Olermo, Dat Kim, and Jen Matsueda