Untold Stories Art Exhibition at the Hive highlights APIDA voices

Students read pieces submitted to the AAMP Untold Stories event at the Hive.
Woven-cloth pieces and spoken poetry were among some of the APIDA art showcased at the Untold Stories Art Exhibition.  (Emma Jensen • The Student Life)

Featuring over 40 pieces, the Asian American Mentor Program’s (AAMP) Untold Stories Art Exhibition debuted on Nov. 20. Held at the Hive on Pomona College’s campus, the event ran from 1 to 4 p.m. and showcased around 40 5C artists, with significant representation from all four graduation years. Ranging from multimedia cloth work to photography to written (and performed) poetry, the exhibition boasted an impressive breadth of art. 

When first entering the exhibit, visitors see a blue stitched cloth piece on the left wall, created by Caroline Kim PO ’23. Roughly 112 students quietly observed the exhibit, which was neatly organized into aisles showcasing the art pieces.  

By providing a 5C-wide platform, the Untold Stories Art Exhibition shone an inter-college spotlight on the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) artists, organizer Ming Lam PO ’24 said. 

“The main objective of the exhibit is to highlight the voices of APIDA artists because APIDA artists don’t get a lot of attention in mainstream art and culture in general,” Lam said. 

Lam explained that a committee within Pomona College’s Asian American Mentor Program began planning the Untold Stories Art Exhibition at the start of the semester. In addition to Lam, the committee includes head mentor Kano Cheng PO ’22, Ashley Sun PO ’22, Krystal Yang PO ’23, Janelle Li PO ’23 and Jacinda Lee PO ’24. 

Two paintings of little girls smiling while holding peaches. The paintings are orange and pink in tone.
Amy Otnes PZ ’22 created two paintings for the exhibition. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

“The first half of the semester we spent just soliciting submissions,” Lam said. “The last two or three weeks have been organizing how we’re going to set up the exhibit [and] how we are going to set up the website.” 

The website is an archive of all the artwork from this year, as well as the past academic year. 

“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s going really well, so we’re very happy with it,” Lam said.

The committee’s hard work paid off. While exploring the exhibit, one could hear a pin drop as students quietly contemplated each piece carefully. The compelling works were intensely intimate, questioning, explaining or simply exploring various aspects of each artist. 

One of the two woven-cloth pieces of Karina Behera PO ’25 depicts a spinning dancer, drawing from the tradition of Kathak dance.

“Art encourages appreciation, and using it as a medium for communication allows the subject to be seen in a different way,” she said.  

The dancer is embroidered beautifully in purple, an homage to the symbolic notion of reincarnation that purple holds in the Indian culture. 

“I made sure that all of the figures were connected by one string to represent the single soul morphing into different bodies and lives,” Behera explained. 

Her second piece similarly explores the intersection of symbolic color and Indian culture via a portrait of a woman on a piece of soft-pink paper created by Behera. 

“I portrayed pink’s symbolic significance of femininity,” she said. “By creating paper, I strove to mirror the feminine power to create life. The dancer is in a position of offering, which further adds to the representation of how women give life.” 

Her piece draws attention to the power of women. 

“The simultaneously subdued and bold style of the figure’s painting shows how women can embody both sides of the spectrum,” Behera said. 

The Untold Exhibition art pieces strongly resonated with other APIDA students such as Rahul Jain PO ’24, who commented on a poem written and performed by Muriel Alejandrino. 

“It resonated with me because coming from an Asian background, the arts aren’t super emphasized, so it seems like something to keep to yourself,” Jain said. “I think Muriel’s piece was about expression and just sharing or just doing some kind of art for yourself. Even if it’s not award-winning, it’s still something to be proud of and worth pursuing.”

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