CYJO, an American visual artist of Korean ancestry, is sharing an exhibition of family portraits and interviews in New York City and Beijing that captures the experience of 19 families with children of mixed ancestry.
The artist’s exploration of identity and its relationship to migration and culture began in 2004 and continued through this series of compelling portraits. Her work analyzes how culture, life experience, tradition and modernity shape individual and collective identity.
In her most recent pieces, she continues to explore cultural nuances, connective elements and contradicting perspectives.
For local viewers, Mixed Blood is a door into the lives of families who must consciously shape their children’s identity through tradition, modernization, citizenship and culture.
As the population of multiracial people increases across the world, visual depictions of such individuals and families are gaining attention.
“For some, these portraits will allow us to form more deliberate opinions when interacting with people who don’t share their exact backgrounds. For others, it will allow us to understand the inevitable growth of the individual and culture within our globalized world,” CYJO said.
The families in Mixed Blood represent the unprecedented diversity of human relationships and cultural blending in the 21st century, said Nik Apostolides, associate director of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
“At the same time, it suggests the evolving role of individuals and families in defining their own unique identities and shaping their own values in ways that use race and ethnicity as a partial frame,” Apostolides said.
“I feel a strong connection to the portraits and narratives in CYJO’s Mixed Blood. They are at once familiar and provocative,” said Maya Soetoro-Ng, half-sister of US President Barack Obama. “They highlight the borrowing, plucking, reshaping, and discarding that we do in fixing our identities at any given time, in a particular space, and for a particular purpose.”
The exhibition is sponsored by the US Embassy in Beijing and hosted by Three Shadows Art Centre. It has already made appearances in Chengdu, Dalian and Shanghai.