I haven’t been able to get to the studio for the past few days for a variety of reasons. When that happens, I start to feel a little anxious and disconnected from the work, so I try to think about my artwork by writing about it. This morning I found myself thinking about what I’ll do after I finish “Falling.”
Lately two recent encounters got me thinking about the future of my artwork. Last week I went to a bakery in Chinatown to buy some glutinous rice dumplings, called “zhong zi”. The woman who worked at the bakery asked me a question about the filling inside the dumplings, but I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to say, and she didn’t speak any English. She asked the woman next to her to translate, and I finally figured out that she was asking me if I was allergic to peanuts since the dumplings had peanuts inside them.
Then this morning I was sitting at the public library and an older Chinese man came up to me and asked me for help, speaking in Mandarin Chinese. My Mandarin Chinese is really not very good, even after several years of Chinese school as a child. I can get the basics of a conversation, but I can’t figure out the details or specifics. He needed directions to get to an address but I couldn’t help him with the few words that I could speak in Chinese. When I lived in New York City, Chinese people used to come up to me all the time to ask for help, and I always felt badly every time that I couldn’t help them.
I have no idea where I’m going with this, but I think my next project will have something to do with why I’ve felt shame for not speaking Chinese. Sometimes I feel that the only part of me that is truly Chinese is my physical appearance. I already like this idea because it’s deeply personal, but in a completely different way than “Falling.”