Student art exhibit shines spotlight on Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American perspectives

A group of about fifty students standing and sitting on couches in a large room look ahead, watching an open mic event.
Students gathered to enjoy art, live performances, snacks and tea during AAMP’s Untold Stories art exhibition Nov. 9. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

Traditional illustration pieces, student-coded games and painted skateboard decks were among the art pieces showcased at the Hive’s recent exhibit last Saturday.

Named “Untold Stories,” the second annual student-run art exhibit and performance event gave the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American community a platform for their vulnerabilities and talents to shine through.

“Untold Stories” was hosted by Pomona College’s Asian American Mentor Program with assistance from the International Student Mentor Program and South Asian Mentor Program and featured an open-mic, a calligraphy corner, a Tea Circle meeting and a traditional gallery. 

Kristine Chang PO ’21, AAMP co-head mentor and member of the “Untold Stories” planning committee, said that as an artist, an event like “Untold Stories” has always been in the back of her mind.

“When I first applied to be [an AAMP] mentor, I wrote about this exact event in my proposal,” Chang said. “One thing that I wish I had as a [first-year] was a way to express myself as an Asian American person. Art has always been a way for me to express myself.”

A Chinese-american female college student holds a mic while reading from her phone. Behind her is a sign that reads "OPEN Mic."
Kylie Wong PO ’22 reads “K A Y L A” a poem written by her and her sister Kayla. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

AAMP mentor and planning committee member Kylie Wong PO ’22 hoped the event would create a warm and safe space for Asian American students.

“I’m hoping that at this event, people see many different perspectives,” she said. “The majority of us in the room do identify as Asian American, and I want them to know that they are not alone in their journey at the 5Cs. I want to create this warm bubble that envelops Asian American students into feeling pride and solidarity.”

Tramy Nguyen PO ’22, also on the planning committee, acknowledged the overall success of the event.

“Because ‘Untold Stories’ was such a hit last year — its first year — [the planning committee] felt the need to uphold the legacy,” she said via message. “Most people were impressed with the scale, with the high number of submissions and the variety of the works.”

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The art gallery showed over 50 art submissions from 5C students as well as from college students outside of Claremont. The collection was an eclectic one — there were essays, poems, photographs, sculpture and video. Subject matter ranged from the personal to the political, discussing families, language, cities, pop culture, current events and history. 

Student artist Kano Cheng PO ’22 created an interactive sculpture in which attendees could learn how to make origami paper cranes out of pages from “The History of Pomona College 1887-1969,” a book that can be found in nearly every Pomona College residence hall and academic building. After a crane was folded, Cheng would pin them up to the wall and splatter them with paint.

“This piece picked up a life of its own,” they said. “I wanted to show the exploration of visibility and legibility, specifically with this book. ‘The History of Pomona College’ is by an old, white man. You can’t glean any [accurate, diverse history] from this book. I started thinking about rendering the book illegible by destroying it.”

Cheng appreciated that “Untold Stories” accepted a wide array of art, asserting no limitations on what could be submitted.

“Even though I’m sitting in a gallery [that has] a museum atmosphere where you just look and you don’t touch, [my piece is still collaborative],” they said. “I like exploring that, and I think that even though you can interact with my piece, it is still art.”

The gallery also housed an interactive bulletin board that encouraged attendees to draw and write about their thoughts and feelings concerning the current political turmoil in Hong Kong. 

Janelle Li PO ’23 was intrigued by the breadth of form and subject that artists tackled in their pieces, indirectly referencing the collaborative Hong Kong piece.

“Events like these discourage the monolithic stereotype of Asian Americans,” she said. “For example, I think it’s a stereotype for Asian people to be apolitical, so I am also really interested in seeing the political artwork at the show.”

As most guests had made their way through the gallery, “Untold Stories” hosted an open-mic with spoken word and musical performances about topics like body image, fitting in and growing up.

Nguyen said she was happy with the impact the exhibit had on the community. 

“I loved the art and performances, but my favorite part was seeing the occasional parent and child exploring the gallery together,” Nguyen said. “The common narrative for APIDA families describes a tradition of … emotional reservation [and working] for the sake of the family. When I see children and their parents experience these stories side-by-side, [it’s] like we’re sprouting the seeds for a cultural transformation, and that’s such a good feeling to have.”

Photo Gallery:

A table is covered with many colorful paper cranes.
Paper cranes made by students during AAMP snack. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)
Two paintings of little girls smiling while holding peaches. The paintings are orange and pink in tone.
Paintings by Amy Otnes PZ ’22. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)
An elaborate pink and white paper crane sits on a table.
Crane made by Kristine Chang PO ’21. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)
Three skateboard decks lie on a table with Buddhist and Hindu symbols.
Skateboard decks painted by Mei Ge PO ’22. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)
Seven female college students stand and speak to a crowd.
Untold Stories planning committee members Kristine Chang PO ’21, Tramy Nguyen PO ’22, Sofia Ahmed SC ’21, Anna Resek PO ’22, Kylie Wong PO ’22, Jenny Park PO’22 and Jessica Kuo PO’22 speak during the art exhibit event Nov. 9. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)
A large selection of earrings sit on a table. Examples include sushi, fried eggs, bananas and more.
Earrings made by Jorj Chisam-Majid PZ ’20. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)
A male college student stands in front of table. Multiple sets of earrings sit on the table.
Jorj Chisam-Majid PZ ’20 displays their hand-made earrings at the Untold Stories art exhibition. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A large poster displays the words "FREE HONG KONG" and is covered in a collage style of newspaper clippings, post-it notes, and other writings.
A piece by the Hong Kong Political Society at the Untold Stories art exhibit. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)
White paper cranes are tapes to a black piece of paper. Gold colored paint is splattered over them.
Art by Kano Cheng PO ’22. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)
White paper cranes are tapes to a black piece of paper. Gold colored paint is splattered over them.
Kano Cheng’s PO ’22 piece featured paper cranes and paint splatters. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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