‘Wonderland’ exhibit highlights AAPI voices

“Branovan” by Damairis Lao welcomes visitors to the West Gallery as part of “Wonderland: La Verne Art Collection Selections.” The exhibit includes paintings by artists of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. Their work is on display in the West Gallery in the Campus Center through Feb. 15. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook
“Branovan” by Damairis Lao welcomes visitors to the West Gallery as part of “Wonderland: La Verne Art Collection Selections.” The exhibit includes paintings by artists of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. Their work is on display in the West Gallery in the Campus Center through Feb. 15. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook

Olivia Modarelli
Copy Editor 

“Wonderland,” a new art exhibit on display in the University of La Verne’s West Gallery, highlights Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders voices.

Students can stop by the gallery on the second floor of the Campus Center Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.

The exhibit consists of three pieces — two abstract paintings and one portrait — by artists Damairis Lao, Rachel Sheng and Yek Wong. 

“I think they are all strong works and they do very different things,” said Dion Johnson, Director of Art Galleries and the exhibit’s curator. 

Johnson said the small exhibit offers variety.

Rachel Sheng’s untitled piece in the West Gallery focuses on texture and layers. The painting is included in the “Wonderland: La Verne Art Collection Selections” exhibit, which features artists of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent. The three pieces will be on display through Feb. 15. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook

“You can see the skills of realistic painting and see how portraiture presents a form of identity,” Johnson said. “You can see identity and creative exploration in how abstract painting is about creating and inventing things we maybe have not seen before.”

One thing that each piece has in common in terms of identity is that they all represent AAPI voices. 

“I like the focus on AAPI identity because it’s such a large community and it’s vastly underserved when it comes to representation,” said Lao, a Claremont-based artist and La Verne alumna, making the distinction between representation and authentic representation. 

“In artwork, where we get the chance to represent ourselves, I think that’s very important and crucial to amplify,” Lao said. “It’s cool to see that we’re getting more acknowledgment to our contributions and to be shown in a way that is authentic to us.”

Lao’s piece, “Branovan,” is an acrylic portrait of a figure with a brassiere over his face backed by a soft, cool blue.

“Originally what drew me in to creating this piece was the absurd aesthetic of it, and over time I’ve come to appreciate how other people interpret it,” Lao said. She welcomes those viewing the piece to interpret it however seriously or comically they want to.

The artful balance of Lao’s “Branovan” found within the softness of its colors mixed with its daring subject matter quickly meets its inverse on the nearby wall in Wong’s “Cabriolet Las Vegas to Los Angeles,” in which a bold black and vibrant orange meet on a shaped canvas to form a shape reminiscent of a road.

“While living in Las Vegas and driving back-and-forth to Los Angeles he photographed the desert, roadway and setting sun through the windshield and side windows of his VW Cabriolet,” the Singapore-born artist’s statement read. “With black, orange and ochre color-block sections, the abstract canvas becomes a record of his road trip experience and presents a minimal, almost sci-fi, landscape.”

La Verne alumna Rachel Sheng’s “Untitled” piece blends muted, soft strokes of color with bright, abstract shapes and designs across a white background.

“Expressive marks of concentrated colors tangle, twist, smear, and spread; these gestural maneuvers and compositional layers build a complex abstract picture,” the artist’s statement read.

The exhibition will be on display through Feb. 15. 

Olivia Modarelli can be reached at olivia.modarelli@laverne.edu

Olivia Modarelli, a senior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times. She previously served as a staff writer and copy editor.

Sheridan Lambrook, a senior journalism major with a concentration in visual journalism, is photography editor and a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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