Voices of Art – CCSF Art 130A Final Project

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From The Artist

“Where are you from?” Whenever I travel, I get this question. I’m from San Francisco! Simple, right?

“But where are your parents from, originally?” China and Vietnam? But I’ve never been to either of those countries.

The most traditional Chinese thing we do is letting our passed ancestors eat first before we feast. I’m not sure how they’d feel about our meals now though, it’s nothing like what they grew up with. Being Chinese-Vietnamese, we had our classic egg custards, banh mi, and egg rolls.

But what is traditional? Banh mi uses a French baguette because of French colonialism. Chinese Egg Custards 蛋挞 were an imported concept from the Portuguese egg tart. The blistered egg roll was invented in New York City. Japanese shrimp tempura are derived from Portuguese tempura’d green beans. Hispanic churros come from the Chinese Donut 油条. Mashed potatoes were “invented” in the UK, but the potato itself originates from modern day US to South America. The Chinese fortune cookie was invented right here in SF Chinatown! What, if anything, is traditional?

Just like the food in my life, I’m made up of a diverse and complex history. I was born in San Jose, raised in San Mateo, settling in San Francisco. I went to Vietnamese Buddhist preschool and then a private Catholic Portuguese elementary school, finishing off in public schools. My mom was born in China. When the cultural revolution happened, her family refugee’d in Vietnam. When the Vietnam War happened, her family refugee’d in North Dakota. My mom speaks Cantonese at home, but runs a Vietnamese noodle factory in Little Portugal, San Jose. My dad was part of the Vietnamese Navy before refugeeing in China, then New York. My dad spoke Vietnamese to me while my mom spoke Cantonese. I learned English from TV, Portuguese from school, and Spanish from neighbors.

I was born in San Jose, California. Today it’s a part of the United States, but was Mexican land prior, and Ramaytush-Ohlone ancestrial land before that. We try to draw borders, define labels, and identify ourselves as best we can, but history is murky and complicated. Borders are a social construct. These black and white lines don’t reflect our shaded and graduated realities. However much we try to paint a black and white picture, we’ll always lose the details in the shadows and wrinkles of our realities.



  • Immigration (Borders, Migration, Animals, Climate Change, Externalized Costs)
  • Neurodiversity (ADHD, Mental Health, Voices in Head, Learned Voices)


13 Artists On: Immigration from NYTimes

I particularly like Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Portrait of My Father as an Alien,” 2018 because I remember seeing my mom’s Resident Alien ID card in her wallet once and thought it was SUPER weird.

Kimsooja’s “To Breathe – Zone of Nowhere,” 2018 is inspiring because it’s a blend of multi-culturalism, though it doesn’t seem personal. It’s an arbitrary 6 country flags.

Hayv Kahraman’s “Kurds,” 2018. The piece is not inspiring to me, but the quote is:

Today I physically find myself on the other side of the line, struggling to keep my memories afloat. You have made it clear that I’m an “Other” but I refuse to be erased. This is my position as an immigrant and refugee yet I still share the same vision of water on the road as anyone else.

Hayv Kahraman

Multi-culturalism is super hard. Am I American? Am I Chinese? Am I Vietnamese? What about Portuguese? What about Mexican? What about Japanese? I’ve developed as a blend of so many things that I’m none of the above. Just like color labels only exist in a very narrow window of the full spectrum of light and pigment, identity labels ignore everything in-between and push them into an “Other” category. A category that means nothing and has no value other than “we don’t know”.

I was thinking about the types of signs and sign systems that exist in communities throughout the United States. For example, “No Soliciting,” “No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog.”

Patrick Martinez’s “Notice No Soliciting,” 2018

Edel Rodriguez’s “Strangers,” 2018 — Boat full of immigrant strangers. Really cool looking.

Art Spiegelman’s “A Warm Welcome,” 2015


‘People cross borders. / It’s been that way ever since / borders crossed people,’

Antoine Cassar from https://artuk.org/discover/stories/eight-artists-looking-at-experiences-of-migration


The Two Fridas, 1939 by Frida Kahlo – Multi-culturalism, self identity


  • Family Portrait: My mom was a “resident alien”. Show my family tree as grandmother and grandfather being really Chinese/Vietnamese, my parents being aliens, and I’m “American” + Latin + Chinese. Born in China, lived in Vietnam, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and SF Bay Area.
  • Heritage Flag: Blend the national flags of my heritage, the ones I’ve really picked up. Mine would be China, Vietnam, USA, Portugal, Mexico, and Japan.
  • Line art of where my culture comes from: Migration map but for culture
  • Boat of me in my various identities in the various traditional art styles?

Artist Profiles

Edel Rodriguez

Cuban-American, came during the Mariel Boatlift, lived in Florida, and studied art in New York. Currently 52 years old. Primarily works in painting.

Why did the artist chose this topic? What events/forces prompted them to do/make the work they did?

Select work by artist, describe the work, format used, issues addressed, and why did I chose them?

  • Mao wearing Louis Vuton
  • Che Guevara wearing airpods and a nike hat
  • Boat of immigrants

Frida Kahlo

Mexico, Died . Paintings

Why did the artist chose this topic? What events/forces prompted them to do/make the work they did?

Select work by artist, describe the work, format used, issues addressed, and why did I chose them?

  • The Two Fridas: The contrast between the european dress and a traditional mexican dress
  • Memory, the Heart: The contrast between the Spanish schoolgirl uniform and a traditional
  • Two Nudes in the Forest: the contrast between the light skinned woman and dark skinned woman, both comforting each other in nature

Topic Research

Facts and stuff, 3 sources.

Proposal 2

Table spread of a potluck

As an Asian-American, our large family gatherings of over 100 people were full of food from all different types of cultures. This table represents what I remember from our potlucks during Thanksgiving, but also where my culture comes from.

My father was born in Vietnam, my mom was born in Guangzhou, China and refugee’d in Vietnam. I was born and raised in the Little Portugal neighborhood of San Jose with an 80% Hispanic population snacking on tamales and duritos (con chile y limon) from the Mexican vendedores. I grew up on manga and anime, leading me to studying Japanese for several years. Now, I live in the Mission District of San Francisco studying Spanish and art! My life is a mosaic of cultures and histories. Today, I live on Ramaytush-Ohlone ancestral land decorated in a valley of Mexican mural art with food from all over the world.

It’s important to remember our modern concepts of borders and identities don’t sit well on top of history. The land land was once Native land, then claimed by Mexico, and Spain, and then purchased through military force by the United States. Borders expand and contract, empires have rose and fell.

  • Egg Tarts – Chinese but Portuguese and English
  • Banh Mi – Vietnamese but French origins due to colonialism
  • Al Pastor – Mexican but introduced by Lebanese
  • Egg rolls – Purely Chinese American, invented in New York City, but strongly inspired by Chinese spring rolls, not to be confused with Vietnamese spring rolls.
  • Tempura – Japanese, but from Portugal through trade.
  • Tomato Egg – Chinese + Western. Tomatoes and Corn Starch come from the “New World” Americas.
  • Youtiao – Chinese dish introduced to Spain and Portugal that lead to the modern churro of Latin America and the Philippines.
  • Thanksgiving Turkey – A bird named after the Turkish traders who brought it to England, the birds are native from North America where they are survived by only 0.3% of their original population.



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