629 Moons / 50 Years on view at Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton, Oregon. This is my largest exhibition of 1000 Moons to date, and the first exhibit where I can be in the space physically with other people. I presented a hybrid in-person and virtual artist talk with a walkthrough of specific themes in this exhibit, plus video from my artist residency at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle Maine, and discussion of exploring my identity as a mixed-race Chinese American as part of my grief process.
Full text transcript below the video.
This has been a really amazing opportunity to see this project come to life for me. This is the first time that I’ve had it in a space where I can be in the space with other people, in person, and talk about it. So I’ve been doing presentations and also window installations and exhibitions since last October. This is the first traditional space that I’ve been able to do this in.
So the project, 1000 Moons, is an art installation and ongoing grief process. As Karen said, I lost my grandparents to Covid in January and February 2021. And this has been what I’ve been doing to work with it, with grief, I suppose. In response, and just what I can do to process.
And it’s become something that I really felt that I wanted to share as my art practice. Or not, that I wanted to share. I didn’t feel like there was anything else I really could share, that was meaningful to me. So this has been what has become my focus really, for the last year or so.
So tonight I’m going to be talking about a walkthrough of this particular exhibit and the meanings, as you see the pieces that are here in person. And I also just returned from an artist residency 3 miles from my grandparents’ home in Maine. So I’ll be sharing some video. I took this installation there. This picture is me in Maine, and just my experience there at Haystack School of Crafts.
So when you enter this building, you can see the moons actually on the second floor in the windows. And the sun shines right through those windows in the morning, and really changes throughout the day the way the installation feels from morning to night. And that sort of cycle, the natural cycles, and the way that the work changes through time is something that was really central to me. In this work in general, not just in this space. So, having it in this particular space, that part of it was a really strong part of this installation for me.
And the cycles of time, the natural cycles of day and night, cycles of the tides, cycles of the months, the seasons, is something that I really turn to as a way to re-center myself in time. And as sort of a healing process of just focusing on the way that things change and come back again in nature. Every night, there’s a morning. Every morning, there’s a night. Tides go out, they come back in. Especially shortly after my grandparents died, there wasn’t a lot that I felt I could hold on to. And that sort of natural cycle became a really important aspect of that for me. So seeing it here with the the light changing throughout the day has been really cool.
And every place I show it, there’s some different interaction with the environment, and that’s something that I always really love in my installation work. But this piece in particular, the way it responds to the space that it’s in, and the people who are around it.
So if you came up the stairs, this is the first wall. If you came up the elevator, it’s the second wall.
But this is the first exhibit that I’ve displayed chronologically, that is in the order that I created the work. So this wall is the early work, and this is 112 moons. So 9 years.
And this paper, the moons are all made with paper that I had made years ago, before I moved to Oregon. I came from Hawaii. And I had made the paper in Hawaii with materials from there. And they’re big sheets, 16 by 20 sheets. And I had it for years. Just the paper with the pieces of natural materials in it. And after my grandparents died, I cut it all apart. Into these moons. And at the time, the feeling I had was, I just needed to tear something apart.
And it doesn’t really look like a destructive process. I mean they’re very carefully cut. But that was the feeling that I was working with at the time. That this was something that I had had for a long time, and it was ready to be something else.
So this is the first 6 months of 2021, was when I was doing this. And this is also the same time that American news media started to acknowledge rising violence against Asian Americans, and just the sort of blind fear and misguided hatred about Covid that lashed out in that direction.
The first 6 months of 2021 was also the time when we started to get a lot of politicizing about Covid safety. And trying to mourn my grandparents through that, really has been impossible for me to describe or share. And that is part of the reason I’m doing this project.
Because it’s visual, it’s emotional, and it’s not something that I’m able to, or need to, quantify in words. So that’s one of the reasons that this work has been important to me.
Doing the talks has been good for me and interesting, too, because it’s an opportunity for me to try to put some of that into words, alongside the work.
So 1000 Moons is about my grandparents who died of Covid. I am mixed race Chinese American. My grandparents who died of Covid were not Chinese. But I am, and that’s been sort of a strange space for me. I’ll talk a little bit more about that later on. But as part of my grief process, working with this, I’ve started really exploring my own Chinese side of my heritage, on the other side of my family.
So there are two poems in the exhibit. And again, that’s not something I normally share. I write occasionally, but I don’t usually include that as part of my public work. But the one on this wall I wrote shortly after my grandmother died. I will read it out loud.
I will find you in the earth
In the smell of trees
In a wildness that could never be tamed.
I will find you in a lifetime of these gifts
The silence of fog
The joy of a bird
and a thoughtful mind.
So this is the Hawaii paper, most of which I cut into moons in between the time when my grandmother and my grandfather died, which was about 4 weeks apart. This wall is less than one tenth of the total number of full moons in my grandmother’s life. So just the volume of months, of moons, of time, has been something that I’ve been really interested in showing visually. What does that look like? I guess, as an artist, it’s a question you ask a lot. Whatever the idea is that we have, what does that look like? So this idea of showing time in space has been central to this exhibit.
And then, lastly, on this wall is three sheets of paper from the first new batch of paper I made in summer of 2021. So I finished cutting all the moons apart from the paper I already had, and I knew I wanted to finish the 1,000. Which I’m still working on. I’m not done yet. But I needed to make new paper. So this paper I made after their deaths, using materials from their home place.
So this is kelp from the shoreline where they lived, sheet music from their library, and those were the two primary materials that I worked with in this first batch of paper that I made over summer in 2021.
So each one of these moons, cut out from this paper that I made, is unique, and each one really feels precious to me. When I work with this installation, putting the strands up on the walls, taking photographs of it, or video. I really enjoy looking at each one of them and seeing how they’re different and thinking about, you know, every one of these represents a month in time, and how in our own lives, the lives of people we love, every month of our lives is different, and it adds up to who we are. Who the people we love are. What our memories of them look like.
I work a lot with abundance and multiples, and that’s something that is reflected here. But I realized when I was doing this project, that a lot of the abundance work that I do, and the work with multiples, is sort of a celebration of life in this way. That every one of the 1,100 objects is unique and beautiful. And it’s something that I often turn to in response to crisis.
I do work with ocean pollution as well, and I use the same sort of abundance and multiples as a celebration of life and uniqueness and beauty.
So this is a closeup of one of the sheets. You can see the seaweed, the kelp, and the sheet music before I cut the sheet apart. And once I made these sheets, I really fell in love with them just as they were, before I cut them apart. So I made more sheets of paper than I need, and I’m going to keep them. So it’s nice to see some of them in the exhibit.
Some of the sheets in this exhibit will be cut apart into moons to finish the 1,100. But not all of them.
So this is the second viewing area that’s sort of separated by an open corridor from the first viewing area. And this area has 517 moons, which is 41 years.
So the total of this physical exhibition is 629 moons or 50 years. So it’s about halfway, a little more than halfway. And just, you know, standing in the space and thinking about, what is it going to look like when there’s twice as many? Or, you know, standing in this particular space and thinking, this is 41 years, what does that look like in relation to your own life? How much of your own life that is.
And I’ve been sharing this since the beginning, well not the very beginning. But since early on, in making them, when I had a lot less done, and the point of that is that it’s a process based project. This is not something that I am, I mean, eventually I will make 1,175 but the point is not that I’m finishing it. But that grief is a process. This project is a process, and that is the value of it.
In this space in particular.
I’m just realizing if I get really close to the mic that it actually works. I don’t know if you’ve all been able to barely hear me all this time, or not, but I’ll try and stay close.
So in this space in particular, there’s a lot of different detail elements. So I’m going to go through them basically from left to right. And these are also loosely chronological.
So this is one of the full sheets of paper close up, that I wrote just stream of consciousness memories on, last Thanksgiving, which was the first milestone date since my grandparents’ deaths that was like a series of milestone dates. Thanksgiving, Christmas, they both died in winter, both of their birthdays are in winter.
So it was just like a series of dates that were, it was the first year for all of those, and I didn’t realize how difficult that was going to be, and that was another point where I’ve talked about this in previous presentations. There’s not a lot of space that I found in American culture for the process of grief. The ongoing process, and like, what does that first year look like? You know, those year milestones. So I didn’t really expect it, to be honest. But it was something that was really, it was a lot. It was a lot of dates, one after the other. And this was one of the things I did in response. Not really realizing that that’s what I was doing.
But looking back, and thinking about, When did this happen? When did I do what? This is one of the things that I did, to just try and respond to that time.
So after I wrote all the memories, I cut them up into circles. And those are hanging in the window wall here at the Reser, and you can, you know, read a little bit, but they’re fragmented. And I knew I was going to do that when I wrote the sheet.
So this is an image actually from my studio, but it just gives you an idea of more of the sheets of paper. In the windows, the moons are cut out from sheets of paper from my first batch last summer. I made a second batch of paper in February of this year, so pretty recently. And that’s these sheets of paper. I added more elements. My grandfather’s favorite tea, which I discovered makes a beautiful stain on the back of the sheets of paper. Third from the left, on the bottom, is the back of a sheet. Daylily leaves from my grandmother’s garden. Just some more memory elements. And that was made right around the end time of that tough winter of first year dates.
So the memory page is at the beginning of that, and then I made all this paper at the end of that time. And again, I didn’t really plan it out that way. It just sort of, looking back on it, that is what happened. And that’s been interesting for me to have. I take photos, all my photos have a date stamp on them, and then, when I look back, I’m like ‘Oh, I see now.’ Months later, I can see what was happening.
But I don’t, you know, I just do what I do with the time, and when I feel like I’m ready to make progress on this project, then I do. But it’s been a very organic process for me. I have things I need to do by a certain date. Like I had to get this show up by a certain date, but it was very much, for me, like this is going to be where I am right now, in my process of making this project, in my process of grieving.
So I don’t know what’s going to come out of it exactly. Because it’s going to be where I am. And just honoring that process and letting myself be where I am with it, has been something that’s been really helpful for me. And again, I think something that isn’t maybe necessarily a focus in our culture.
So four of these sheets of paper from the second batch are on the near gallery wall. This is a close up with one of the sheets, with the tea and the daylily leaves, and I just really love how it looks. I just like the paper, and that’s been nice to work with a project that’s this heavy, but I enjoy visually, and just physically experiencing it. I enjoy making the paper, getting my hands into it. I enjoy doing the stringing of the moons. I enjoy cutting them out and I enjoy looking at it. So it’s something that is beautiful for me to work with, and that helps too.
So I have started filming a lot of my work and that’s also become a really important part of the process. This is a still image from the paper-making video that is on my website with a lot of other process videos of this project. And I started focusing on video for accessibility, particularly during Covid. But it really is such a useful tool for anybody who can’t be here in person, for whatever reason. And also is another way for me to experience the project. Video is an art. And looking at this process from that perspective has really added another dimension to my work. So I’m going to continue doing that and I’m also planning on doing a video walkthrough of this installation and posting that online for people who cannot visit it in person. So, you know, I’m learning how to do video.
So at the end of the second gallery space is the second poem which I wrote after the first one, but not far after.
Tell me about the space in your heart
It is a place new to me.
Do they speak to you
with the full force of soul,
or sometimes just an echo?
Do you also wake in the darkness to find
Or sometimes tearing you apart?
So surrounding that poem are little triangles of the handmade paper. That are what was left after I cut circles out of the full sheet. And at first, I was saving them because I was recycling the paper. So I would make my second batch out of the bits from the first batch, as well as new pulp. But I kept saving them after I knew I didn’t need more.
And that’s been an interesting theme, and recurring theme with this project, and also some of the other work that I do, is working with what’s left behind. You know, what we want to think of maybe as waste, or unintentional, just left over pieces, and that becomes the voice of the story.
So this free form placement of the triangles, to me, is the disintegration and fragmentation of time and memory that I experienced since the beginning, but also looking into the future and thinking, What does this time look like for my grandparents, who are now no longer living?
This very structured experience of the moons. They’re all the same circle. They’re all in lines as time progresses. And then, you know, what happens after you die? How does, people who are still living, how does their experience of the people who are gone change? And become less linear and more, maybe fragmented, maybe just more organic? So that was where I was thinking about with the triangles.
Something else I realized is that the structure of cutting out all the moons and counting them and quantifying that time was really important to me, especially early on. Having some sort of a structure. And I think letting go of that and having space for free flight.
And I put those up on the wall, the triangles, just with little sticky tack on the back of them. So I’m just sticking them to the wall where I wanted to, into a shape that felt good. And that’s just such a different process than making the moons, and I don’t think it’s something I could have done a year ago.
So this is very much, this exhibit is where I am right now.
So this is 18 years, 222 moons, I took to Maine at an artist residency I actually came back from five days before I installed this show. So it was a busy 6 weeks. But it was really just like it was part of the same process, to be honest. And I wanted to bring these back to my grandparents’ home place since early on, and having the opportunity to do it was really amazing.
It’s a small rural island. This craft school happens to be 3 miles from their house. There’s like one other place that I possibly could have stayed that’s that close. But it was just a really, it was such a privilege to be able to do that. Right, basically, you know, in their forest, in their ocean, right where they were.
And this, the video and the travel, was actually partly funded by the Oregon Arts Commission. And that is something that I really appreciate. Because this is not a really monetized project. And being able to focus on this and still pay my bills is really a gift.
So this is a really rough, quick cut that I actually did in Maine. And I have a lot more footage, but this is just the first thing I put together that I wanted to be able to share with people. So there’s no transitions, there’s no sound. That’ll come later, when I’m ready to do that work.
And this was my original vision, for this installation, was for it to be a corridor of time that you can walk through and think about like this is 94 years of life, as you are physically moving forward through space, to move forward through the time as well.
So this is 18 years, but it’s a lot of moons. And this is at dawn, so the light is low. And dawn in Maine is like 4 o’clock in the morning. So that was an early morning. I’m not really a morning person. But it was worth it. I spent probably 3 hours with the installation, just in the quiet of the morning, and it was a really peaceful experience. I really enjoyed it.
So to me, this project, and my memory of my grandparents is really centered on this place, and the natural elements were so much a part of my memory of them, and my experience of what we shared.
So I did a bunch of other stuff at Haystack during this residency. I brought home some of the mud from the clam flats there. I’m probably going to soak some of the paper in it. So it’ll dye some of the paper for the moons that I haven’t made yet. I did some other work with the tree stumps and charcoal that were there.
So it was a really sort of, full of life experience to be there, even though this project is about death. There was so much life in my experience of being there and doing this, that was really healing to be a part of.
So I had a local videographer do some of the filming, the filming of me in the forest, and also in the ocean, which is coming up next. And that was really great, to work with somebody who was from there, from their home place, and just have that connection continue forward.
So I’m not right at their house. But I’m basically as close as you can get, public access. So this is very near where I would’ve been going swimming anyway. I used to go in the summers to their house. So these are all places that I remember.
So you know, really quick, rough cut, there’s a lot of cool footage that maybe I would have cut in, or made different choices. But I just wanted to get something put together. And I haven’t even had a chance to go back and edit this. So I’m like, that was the right choice. Sometimes you just have to put out what you can.
And every time I see these videos that I screen during the presentations, I wish that there was audio. Although during the live presentation, I’m talking over it. So it’s okay that there’s not. But I have a lot of sound recordings that I’m excited to work with, and that just, I haven’t done it yet. But that’s fine, you know, I’ll get to it.
So some of the other work I did in Maine was thinking about my identity as a Chinese American. I brought a book that my mother, who is Chinese, had given me a few years ago, about our ethnic subgroup, Hakka Chinese people. Their history. And my grandfather, who this project is about,
my not-Chinese grandfather, actually was a university professor, and he lectured in China basically my entire life. And there’s a book published of his lectures that I had not read. It was one of the things I took home from their library after they passed. So I had that book, and I had my own Chinese heritage book, and I was reading those, I was alternating chapters in Maine, and just thinking about, where’s my identity between all those personal connections and these place based memories and all the branches of my family’s history.
Thinking about just the context of what it means to be a Chinese person right now in America. Shifting balance in reading these two books between cultural exchange, imperialism and colonialism. What does that mean for me? Both branches of my family’s history?
This is the first exhibit that I have presented in my entire career as an artist, as Emily Jung Miller. Jung is my Chinese family name, and I’ve always just used Emily Miller in the past. And I think that claiming that part of my identity has been part of my process with this and part of my grieving process.
And in some of the past presentations I’ve talked about Chinese traditions of mourning, annual cycles that honor the dead. There’s not just one, there’s an entire year cycle of traditions that they have, creating space for that process of grief that we’re missing in American culture.
I did not grow up with those traditions. I researched them online in the past year, and that is why I know about them. So you know, for me to be here today and say I’m a Chinese person feels almost dangerous and uncertain and it’s only something I’ve recently been able to do. My dad’s white. Can I really be Chinese? And I wasn’t raised, I wasn’t taught Hakka, to speak Hakka. My family did, my Chinese family does. I was not taught. I didn’t grow up with these festivals, so it feels like I’m appropriating my own culture, and just working through that, this year, has been really important.
And I think part of it is because of the violence against Asians because of Covid. It was an opportunity for me to stand up and say, I am a Chinese person.
My mother’s family were recent immigrants from China, and I think that that sort of downplay of ethnic heritage is something that I’ve seen, in other families of recent immigrants, as a survival tactic to avoid persecution. It wasn’t safe to be Chinese. And I think it’s become more clear to me now that self-erasure is not safe either, and not really a path that I can choose.
So the colors that I’ve used for this project are actually strongly related to Chinese color symbology. White is death. You wear white for mourning. And red is joy and life. So, the thread being red and the moons being white. I didn’t come at it from like, I want to make this Chinese color symbology, but I experimented with different colors of thread and this is the one that felt right.
So this picture is what happened after I floated all those moons in the ocean and hung them from trees in the forest. This is one of the knots. There were many, and I actually spent a very meditative day untangling them. Most of them. I left one knot because it’s part of the process, the knots. It’s part of the physical process that these moons went through. They’re still full of ocean salt, and this knot reminds me of that. That I got to do that.
But it’s also a metaphor. Everything isn’t going to always be something that can be untangled. So the knots in this process that can’t be smoothed out, are something that with this in particular, I wanted to include and honor that that remains, that is part of the final show.
And one of those sort of knots for me has been, it’s been really hard to give myself grace. Doing this project, doing this work, requires my whole being to be present, and I need time before and time after to rest and reflect. And rest is not something that is prioritized, again, in our culture. And doing this project, being where I am, I’ve really just, I don’t feel like I have a choice.
Rest is an integral part of life. It allows us to be fully present where we are. It allows us to grow in a way that is really difficult if we’re always in survival mode, and always under the threat of urgency, and not having time to reflect on what has happened, where we are, what we think about it. Having that space for stillness gives us a chance to listen. That, I think, is really important for moving forward in whatever way we do, from all the places that we’re at right now.
This work can be exhausting, but I’ve tried really hard not to glorify our culture of exhaustion in the sense that it’s valuable because I worked so hard that I was exhausted. I’ve tried really hard to say, this is important, and I need to rest. And make that part of my public practice, not just something that I do on my own, but specifically something that I share as part of this, is I’m going to need to rest. I have nothing on my schedule for the next 2 days except going to a lavender farm and doing yoga. That’s it. There are absolutely things on my list that I could do in the next few days. But what I need to do is leave myself time, unstructured time, and you know, it’s going to be more than 2 days.
This project takes as long as it takes. I rest as long as I need to rest. And I really recognize my privilege in being able to do so. And I hope that this work begins to make use of that privilege that I have, that ability that I have to rest, for true growth that we can all share.
Thank you, and thank you again for sitting through the beginning of technical difficulties. So if anybody has any questions, the way that I’ve done this is sort of a traditional Q & A. The recording is still going, and then once all the official questions that you want recorded are done, I turn the recording off and it’s just an open conversation.
Audience Question: Was 18 years a significant number?
That is a good question. Was 18 years a significant number to have brought to Maine? Sort of, but not in a really deep way. I went to Maine throughout my adult life to visit my grandparents, but the way that I printed on that place and on them was during my childhood. So I think, just for that reason it was, these are the moons of my grandmother’s life, but it’s also my experience of them in their life, especially because I haven’t finished making all the moons yet. So I think there was that. This was my childhood. But it was also kind of like, this is how many I had in my suitcase.
Audience Question: In all of the iterations of your installations and de-installations, what have you noticed that carries you forward?
Thank you. So what have I noticed most about perpetuating the project, like what’s going to come next during the installations, and de-installations? I particularly want to focus on the de-installation aspect. Normally when you take down a show that’s the end, right, and you’ve just got to get it packed up. It goes a lot faster than putting the show up, it’s just, everything’s done now. It can be sort of a sad moment, but that has not been my experience at all with this. When I take these down. So this is the third one that I’ve done. First one in a gallery space where people can stand in it. But the other two were in window spaces.
When I’ve taken these down, it’s an opportunity for me to spend more time with it and see it again in a different way, and work with it again. And that’s been really interesting to me. It’s another chance to be with the work, especially because I know that I’m going to keep working with it. But I think in a lot of my installations, like in the work with ocean pollution that I do, it’s the same. It’s a time for me to be with the work again.
I think every time I’ve done it, I’ve had some sort of an idea of what that process gave me, in my grief process, and also ideas going forward for what I wanted to do next. The installation I did over winter 2021-22, was when I realized I really wanted to integrate video everywhere into this entire project. I took it down on the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death. That’s what I did that day. And I thought, you know, do I really want to do this today? Because taking down an installation is sort of like the end, traditionally. But I filmed the installation that day. So it really came to life in a different way than it had before that time. So every time I do it I get something more going forward, which has been cool. Thank you.
Audience Question: I’m curious to see what inspired you to go on particular journey. Can you talk about the part of the creation of how you decided to take this path?
Do you mean making the moons? Yeah. Yeah. So I sort of skipped over that. Shortly after my grandmother died, it was January here in Oregon, usually very rainy. On the first full moon after she died, the sky was clear, and I could see the full moon rise from my house, and I thought, this is the first full moon I’ve seen rise without her being able to see it, too. And that just got me started thinking, how many full moons did we see together? How many did she see before I was born? How many did she see with my grandfather? With my dad? So I went and figured it out. And then, just again, had that thought of, ‘What does that look like?’ once I had realized that there were 1,175 full moons in her life.
And I’m not really sure how I made the connection between the paper, cutting apart the paper that I had made, and making the moons. I think I was just looking for something to use, and I had that, and it was precious. And I didn’t want to just make it out of printer paper.
Audience Question: Can you talk about that moment when you decided to destroy that precious paper that you made in Hawaii? By the way, where did you make it? Was it at a facility or on your own? So anyway, what was that moment like? When you tore into your paper?
Yeah. So I made the paper in Hawaii at a workshop. A paper maker came and did a 3 day workshop. It was at Kauai Community College but it wasn’t a college class. It was just hosted there. The paper maker was being hosted by one of my mentors in art, Carol Yotsuda. So that was, the whole thing was just a really good memory.
And that moment when I decided that it was time to cut it apart. I actually took photos, high-res photos, of all the paper before I cut it. So I would have a record of it. And I think it really was something I needed to do. It didn’t feel like a loss. It felt like I need to tear something apart.
It was my birthday a couple of weeks after she died, and my partner got me a pinata, and I destroyed it, and that felt really good. And that’s not something that I talk about a lot, but I think that is absolutely part of grief, and I think there’s so many parts of grief that, you know, they’re not comfortable, they’re not safe, they’re not something that we have space to talk about. And I’m like, you know, there’s nothing wrong with cutting up paper or destroying a pinata, that’s literally what it’s made for. But it still feels like something that isn’t, it’s not a part of yourself that’s to be shared.
And I think doing this project is like, no, I’m sharing this. Because people grieve, and it’s hard to do it alone.
You had a question in the back.
Audience Question: Yeah, you were talking about your process, and you were talking about, you had a kind of process < inaudible >
Having that experience of letting the process guide itself and not really knowing what’s going to come up next, I mean I have an overall idea. But leaving space is really important, I think particularly for this project. But for a lot of my work in general, I think some of the best ideas come out of that openness.
And for this project, it’s really what I need to do in order to grieve and heal, is to leave space for whatever comes up, and be where I am. And see what pieces emerge and turn into something I didn’t expect. Because I don’t know what I’m doing, in grief, or really in this project. And I think that, trusting that unknowing, has been really important.
So it was really fun to see it come together in the moment. I have these triangles. How is this going to look when I put it up on the giant wall? Oh, it looks cool. So yeah, having some aspect of play and enjoyment in this is definitely, it’s been a really good project for me from the beginning.
You go first.
Audience Question: So I’m really interested in how your exhibition can be presented in many different spaces. You had hosted one outside. And now you’re in this gallery. I just wanted to learn how that has made you feel, and what you learn from that transition from outside to inside, and back and forth. So could you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, I really love seeing this exhibition in different spaces. It really is a different exhibition depending on where it is, and trusting the process, I don’t know what it’s going to turn into until I get there, and I see the light, and the factors that are what’s possible.
And I think particularly putting this in public space has been important. So you know, different public spaces. I have an exhibition coming up next year where it’s going to be at the Hillsboro Civic Center, and I think that putting this in a government facility is going to be another really interesting statement that I’m actually really looking forward to exploring.
But yeah, I really like that part of installation work, that it is so much about the site and the people who are there to experience it, wherever it is. Different people are going to be looking at it at an artist residency in rural Maine versus a gallery facility like this in Beaverton, and that’s part of it, too, who gets to see it.
Audience Question: What I was struck by, listening to you, is how pliant and amazing paper is. Because you’ve been able to bring Maine, and yourself, and time, space, and all sorts of things together in a medium that lets you do something like that. So glad I had a chance to hear you talk about it. As a viewer, without a really big artist statement, I would have missed so much of the meaning behind your work and the healing, and the process, and all of those things.
And we talk about this a lot. Presenting your work, putting it out there and not getting a chance to explain yourself, and not getting a chance to have this richer experience of understanding the whys and the wherefores. Oh look, that knot happened. Now we know how that knot happened and so it’s a special knot. So my question would be, Do you work in other mediums? Or, do you find anything as pliant as that paper is? Because it’s amazing that you’ve got kelp from home in there.
Yeah, paper is amazing. I do work in a lot of other mediums. I love materials. So I work in a lot of different mediums, and I sometimes feel like if I was just a potter or just a paper maker, my life would be a lot easier. But that’s just not me.
So the paper really is amazing. And it’s so easy. I mean, just get a blender. Don’t use it for drinks ever again. But just get a cheap blender and just shred up anything. Get a window screen in a frame, and just pull it through a bucket and you’ve got paper. And you can put anything into it.
About the artist statement and artist talks, I really want the work to be able, I want people to be able to experience it without coming to the talk. And get what they get out of it from my three paragraphs, which they may or may not read. But the gist of it being that this is a space for people to experience their own histories and experience of time. It’s not just about my particular grandparents. And whatever they get out of, What does this knot mean? Or when was this poem written? is really up to them.
Audience Question: Emily, tagging on to this question and comment from this guest, if you can talk a little bit about not only the relevance but the importance, the meaning behind the shadows. You and I spent a lot of time out there playing with them, moving them just slightly, the lighting. Can you share with everyone that part of the process and what it means to you?
The shadows and the reflections also, are almost like a continuation of the moons. How many are there really? Having multiple shadows from multiple lights, and the reflections in the polished concrete and also at night, the reflections in the windows of the moons duplicates them all, and that adds to my experience, or what I want to share, about there are so many. There’s so many months in a lifetime. It’s more of the infinity of it.
And knowing that they’re not real. They are reflections of the real thing, but they’re still adding to the total experience in our visual understanding of it.
Audience Question: I just remember when I first saw the exhibit, the fact that you were telling time by moons really pulled you out of your normal feeling of months and years, and actually made it more real because you could actually look up, it’s not something you could ignore. It was something you could take advantage of.
Thank you. Yeah, that was the way that I held on to time. By looking at the moon, what’s it doing right now, where is it at in its phase, what time is it going to rise tonight, how much of it will I be able to see? It was something in the physical world that was really grounding.
And, what day is it? I mean, that’s literally become a joke during Covid times. Nobody knows what day it is anymore. It means nothing. And I think I felt that so strongly, after they died. Our construct of time was just not available to me any more. But the rhythms of the earth were right there.
Audience Question: It just popped into vision, the matrilinear aspect of this, being the moons of her life, her moons. But also the idea of you saying, this isn’t working. This whole way we’re talking about it isn’t working. < inaudible >
Yeah. But we can always look up at the moon. Even if you don’t know if it’s Tuesday. And like, is it really Tuesday? What does Tuesday mean?
Audience: It waxes and it wanes. It’s undeniable.
Yeah. It’s something that was real. And present. And something that we all experience. Whether we look at it or not, it’s up there.
Audience: Well and that matrilinear aspect, my grandmother < inaudible > she actually traces her heritage martilinearly.
I believe that the Chinese side of my family, Hakka Chinese in particular, are matriarchal. But again, I wasn’t raised with that, so I’m learning now. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to learn. I’ll ask my mom questions and sometimes she’ll answer. Again, that self-erasure. She doesn’t want to talk about it that much. And I’m like, Why not? I don’t know any of these things. I understand a little bit of why not, but it’s not something that I experienced.
Audience Question: How did you get the mud home?
Great question. I took it back to the artist residency in a bucket. And in the ceramics studio, they have a drying cabinet for drying ceramics. So I put the mud in the drying cabinet. And it was the last day, so everybody’s ceramics were out of there. Which I think everybody probably appreciated, even though they didn’t know. It’s clam flats. This mud has a lot of organic material in it. And by the next day it was dry enough that I could double-bag it into freezer gallon Ziplocs. And bring it, actually, I did not bring it home in my suitcase. I shipped it home in a Priority Mail Flat Rate box.
Audience: I can’t even imagine you trying to fly out of Logan with that. They’d be like, What??
Yeah, I had a suitcase full of fishing rope, my grandmother’s sewing machine, it’s always fun, I’m sure, looking at my stuff on the x-ray.