Photo by Brendan Felch/The Towerlight
By: Grace Coughlan, Associate Editor
The second annual Asia North exhibition of Greater Baltimore, Asia North 2020: Tradition-Memory-Transformation launched online through Towson University’s website, on May 8.
Asia North 2020: Tradition-Memory-Transformation was co-produced by the Asian Arts & Culture Center at Towson University and Central Baltimore Partnership, with the help of the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, Charm City Night Market, and other Baltimore community partners.
This year’s Asia North exhibition showcases the art from 25 artists of Asian or Asian American descent, with the overarching theme revolving around the tradition and values of cultures from different Asian countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan.
According to Nerissa Paglinauan, the curator for Asia North 2020: Tradition-Memory-Transformation and the Asian Arts & Culture Center’s Program Manager, due to the global pandemic, the physical exhibit had to be transformed to a virtual platform.
“We also had to get permission from the Baker Foundation, who had awarded us a grant for the exhibition, to convert to a virtual platform,” said Paglinauan. “Thanks to the Baker Foundation grant, we were able to give an honorarium to each artist for participating in the show.”
The exhibition was supposed to also feature interactive experiences such as a night market and a neighborhood food tour. Performances and films were also planned as part of the exhibition.
“Once we got permission from Baker to proceed, we worked with the TU Digital Strategy team to create the exhibition webpages and determine how best to present the works within the framework of TU’s website,” said Paglinauan. “We also worked with TU’s Creative Services who had to format all the images for the website.”
According to Paglinauan, there wasn’t a theme requirement for artists when submissions opened.
“I wanted to be as inclusive as possible of what the artists are currently expressing through their work,” said Paglinauan. “I did not want to put a limit on that. When I reviewed the submissions, including all the artist statements, the recurring themes really presented themselves.”
The exhibition is split into four specific categories: “Memories & Metaphors,” “Honoring & Interpreting Tradition,” “Embracing Identity,” and “Art for Social Change.”
“Memories & Metaphors” highlights the intimate memories of the artists while connecting Eastern culture with Western values. “Honoring & Interpreting Tradition” presents the values of tradition and how each of the different artists interpret their culture.
“Embracing Identity” showcases social topics such as gender and immigration through the lense of identity, how to break away from stereotypes and accepting oneself. “Art for Social Change” displays the environmental, political, and social concerns of the world we live in today as well as raises questions for how as society we can better ourselves.
Wujian Wang, a visual and conceptual artist, is one of the 25 artists featured in this year’s Asia North exhibition.
Though he is now in Maryland enrolled in MICA’s Photogenic & Electronic Media MFA program, Wang is originally from China. He developed a passion for photography at a young age, pursuing it further when he attended the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2016.
Wang’s photography is featured under “Art for Social Change,” a series called “COVID_19” which contains five photographs focused on the effects of the global pandemic such as protection of wildlife, panicked individuality, and isolation.
According to Wang, he wanted to direct his art toward COVID-19 because of how personal the pandemic has become to him.
“When coronavirus hit China and my hometown in January 2020, I was deeply concerned about my family and friends,” said Wang. “My mom is a great doctor who fights on the front line against COVID-19 in hospital in China.”
Wang’s photographs offer a unique perspective into how global disease can affect wildlife and why he feels it’s important to protect them.
“As we all know, coronavirus was detected in a market in Wuhan, China,” said Wang. “This market not only sells vegetables, seafood, and meat, but also trades wildlife illegally. By illegal wildlife trade, virus transmits to humans from wildlife animals. Portraying wildlife protection along with COVID-19 warns people to preserve our earth wildlife neighbors.”
According to Paglinauan, the art work produced for the exhibition gives a very distinct impression when seen in-person but the virtual platform gives artists the opportunity to introduce their work to the world.
“Obviously I think an in-person event would have been amazing for the artists, but given what’s going on, I’m grateful that Towson still decided to give those artists a platform of some kind!” said TU student Kaitlin Marks. “I think being online is always helpful for artists – especially working on Grub Street (Towson’s University’s literary magazine) this year, we found and solicited arts mostly online!”
Asia North 2020: Tradition-Memory-Transformation can be found on Towson University’s website on the Asia North exhibition page.
“Art is a powerful and meaningful way to connect and communicate, and to learn more about the stories and experience of the members of our diverse community,” said Paglinauan. “Especially at this time of physical distancing, and also fresh incidents of racism toward Asians and Asian Americans due to COVID-19, it is more important than ever to find ways to stay connected and promote dialogue and understanding.”