by Cindy Qiao
Cindy Qiao: Hi Mindy
Mindy Kang: Hi Cindy, hi VISIONS people.
Should I introduce myself? Hi guys, my name is Mindy - Mindy Kang. I’m a Korean American student, born in the USA. I’m pretty much a fibers textiles artist from Baltimore--grew up in Baltimore--and then I came here to RISD. I’m now in my third year at RISD, concentrating in History Philosophy and Social Sciences. Yeah, that’s me!
Do you want to introduce yourself, Cindy?
C: Yeah, okay. Hi guys, I’m Cindy. I’m part of VISIONS as an Arts Editor and I’m also a junior at RISD studying Textiles and concentrating in Nature-Culture Sustainability. I’m Chinese American from San Diego… and we’re roommates!
How do you think being Asian American or being Korean American has influenced your work - or has it at all?
M: I think it has, but I feel like I’m at a point where it’s not directly approached in my work. But it’s definitely influenced by it. A lot of my work is based off of recollection of memory and obviously my Asian American identity is completely tied to that and I think that’s something that I want to continue exploring. Like, recently I made a zine about my mom and how Korean American food plays a role in how I’ve discovered my own culture/heritage, so… yeah, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, especially recently. But I think it’s always been there to some extent.
C: Yeah, totally. I think sometimes I’m hesitant to pigeon-hole myself, almost, as like an Asian American artist - like I’m only able to make work about that - but I think it can actually be indirect in a really good way.
Can you talk a little bit about the work you’ve submitted to VISIONS in the past (Fall 2020)?
M: I submitted Diary at Age Six, a knit piece which was inspired by a diary entry
that I had when I was six. I had this cute little diary that had all these kooky
drawings in it. I’ve always been interested in re-depicting drawings and the weird
interpretations of the world that I had at that age. I think rediscovering that helps
me work through my life. Talking about that, at the point in my life that I’m at now,
is really interesting. I think it’s fun, and kooky, and kitschy, and all that.
Chesapeake Diary, which is another piece, the bed cover piece. I sort of did a
similar thing, where I had this drawing I made when I was like seven, that was me
lying in bed with flying fish around it. It was in my bathroom for over ten years
and I asked my mom why she put it up and she was like, It’s cute! And I was like,
why did I make this? So yeah, I wanted to make a piece about it and think about
imagination and where work can take you.
C: Yeah, that’s so cool. I really like that piece. I think it was also so cool to see your stuff on the cover. Also, seeing a textile piece on the cover was really fun.
M: Yeah, that was crazy. I sent it to my mom and was like, Ohmygod! I’m on the cover! She was like, wow you’re famous! But, anyways…
C: I mean, besides me telling you to submit, how did you get to know VISIONS and what makes you want to submit in the magazine?
M: I think finding a way - especially now - finding different ways to be involved in the Asian American community. Especially here at school. I’ve always loved work that’s come out of VISIONS. I remember when I first came to RISD and I first saw the VISIONS magazine, I was like, that’s where I want to be at in three years. I want to be like these artists in this magazine.
It’s just a really exciting collective to be a part of and I just submitted because why not?
C: Yeah, and you ended up on the cover!
It’s really nice because before college, I felt like there wasn’t a lot of time and space for a youth Asian American community, at least in my high school years. Do you feel like coming to college was the first bit of that for you? Or has it always been present in your life before?
M: Well, I think at home I was involved in Korean American Association and growing up, my parents exposed me to as much Korean culture as they could, despite being here in the US. And that’s something that I really cherish. But I think that’s changed when I came here because I was never really exposed to how that could be approached in art. I think that’s what was so exciting for me: finding a way to express my identity through art, that I hadn’t known about before when I was at home. Also, the diversity of Asian students here too, just in terms of background, is super cool.
C: I remember freshman year going to this student show about the AAPI diaspora, run by a group of different Asian students. The work in that was really incredible. And it was crazy to be there in freshman year, and be like, ‘oh yeah, this is the work people are making about themselves and their relationship to their own identity’. Like, I hadn’t figured out a way to talk about myself like that yet in my work. And I don’t think I have yet, still.
M: Yeah, me too. I’ve always felt like I used my art to subconsciously work through things that I’m like struggling with in my life -- you know -- as all artists do. But it was really cool to see people being so confrontational about it, through their work, in VISIONS and other Asian collectives here. And I was like, that’s so inspiring, I want to do that!
I like the work that I make now, and I’m just going to keep exploring.
C: Yeah, totally. What are some things that you’re currently thinking about or looking at -- not even related to making work -- but, what inspires you lately?
M: Food. Last night Cindy made the best mapo tofu. Just kidding, it was actually good, but anyways.
Food has been inspiring me a lot. Like I said earlier, I was making a zine about Korean food and the symbolic meaning of food: how food is used as a gift in a lot of East Asian cultures and as a way to bring community together. I was thinking about how when I was younger, all the families in the neighborhood would always give each other food. I think that was something that I really held close and was bound to what I knew about being Korean. And I want to explore more of how family recipes can define how a family is. I think that’s so interesting and something I want to continue thinking about. Also, because food is SO good. And I think about it all the time.
C: That’s really cool. Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that a lot too. I think that’s because we live and eat together. But food, in my family too, it’s been the substitute for a lot of things you’re supposed to say. Like, an apology is a plate of cut fruit. It’s just interesting to think about. It fills that space where conversation’s supposed to happen, it takes on the meaning for that.
M: You can use it to bring up conversations about things that I don’t think I’d feel comfortable talking about without food. Like in my zine, I was talking about how in Korean culture, seaweed soup miyeok-guk, you eat it on your birthday. It’s a postpartum dish. After my mom gave birth, she ate it for two months every day.
It was really cool because I got to use that to interview my mom and also talk about her experience with being pregnant and fertility and what she thought about that. And that lead to more trickier conversations like, what do you think about abortion? Or I don’t know, maybe I’m taking it kind of far, but it was so cool how food could be a gateway…
C: Yeah, like a starting point.
M: Yeah! A starting point for conversations that are really hard to approach. So, yeah, I’m really grateful for that and I’m really interested in the complexity of food as all kinds of things: food as a gift, food as a way of communicating to one another in really complex ways that I would’ve never imagined. I think it’s really awesome.
C: Do you have any other things you want to talk about?
M: Hmm… Thanks for having me guys, see you later! Submit to the Spring VISIONS magazine because I will be doing that too.
C: Alright, thanks Mindy.