Drawing inspiration from the tranquil and meditative nature of a traditional Chinese landscape garden (花园), “Belonging is a Garden” is a curated collection that delves into the diverse worldview of Asian-American creatives and the environments that nurtured their artistic expression. Through a myriad of mediums, this exhibition seeks to capture the origins of identity and the complex emotions of belonging. Where do we grow from here?

Aitana Mallari and Allen Pan

Curated by Studio ARA for TARO Magazine

My mom and I (2021) Oil Pastel, newspaper, poster board

I was inspired by my mother, who I am constantly looking up to. I used a picture of her of when she was my age, representing that despite our differences, we are one and the same.

Candice DECUNA AKA CANDICE

Filipino

Growing up Filipino American, I used to feel like I needed to pick a side. Am I Filipino or am I American? Now, 20 years old, I realize there is no need for such a dichotomy. I’ve expressed my culture in my American upbringing, which can be seen through my art. I put a unique spin on my art, but I give credit to those who have paved my way, like my family.

 

Candice DeCuna, also known as Candice, is a sophomore studying Biology and Spanish at Arizona State University. She does art on the side and is Vice President of ASU’s Philippine American Student Association.

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TIGER MOM (2018) INK, RECYCLED NEWSPAPERS

“Tiger Moms” are notorious for being strict and demanding of their children, but this piece conveys my understanding that even those “Tiger Moms” are protective mothers, proud of their beautiful and precious little children.

Daniel Hsu

Taiwanese

My upbringing has always taught me to do everything I want to do properly and diligently. Art is a creative outlet that I can immerse myself into for hours on end, not only because of my upbringing, but because of my passion to create something of my own.

Daniel Hsu is a computer science major at Arizona State University in his fourth year. He loves exercising and spending his time with close friends. He doesn’t draw often, but when he’s inspired to, he puts his utmost effort to create something he can be proud of.

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Porcelain Slip Cast Ceramics (2023)

I value integrating my Chinese culture in my art and collections of art. Displayed in this exhibit is a porcelain ceramics project. I was inspired to recreate the infamous Terra Cotta Soldiers but with a slip cast porcelain technique. The technique is done by hand building a prototype, creating a mold out of said prototype with plaster, then essentially using that mold to duplicate the form over multiple times. I’ve also created lotus inspired vessels using the same technique. This exhibit also includes a large black koi fish vessel. Unlike slip casting, this piece was entirely hand built with individual coils from bottom to top. This makes the piece significantly heavier. Not only creating, but collecting art is a hobby of mine. I collect pieces from everywhere whether it be goodwill, estate sales, or hunting online. While modern pieces hold their own charm, I enjoy collecting antiques that have a lot of character.

Elliana Raines

Chinese

Photo of Elliana smiling

I am Chinese and was adopted to the US as a result of the country’s one-child policy. Both my parents were inner city workers in Chicago: my Italian mom a teacher, my Native American dad an engineer. My father passed away in 2011. My world view from the start of life was that of a diverse and humble understanding. While my parents did their best to keep me integrated with the culture I was born from, it wasn’t until college where I really began to curate my identity with it. I had always wanted to know and surround myself with my Chinese culture, and in an international university as large as ASU I was definitely able to. I joined Asian American clubs, added a Chinese minor, and studied abroad. I looked for ways to manifest my creativity and connect with my culture. Art has been the way I’ve been able to do so. Not only through just creating, but when finding a good piece, say at goodwill, I feel like I’m rescuing a small beautify piece of my history and culture.

 

Elliana Raines is an ASU Alum, Art Collector, and Clothing Curator. She enjoys ceramics and integrating her Chinese culture in her pieces. Similar to art, Elliana also curates a clothing collection and resells pieces on Depop. Her Depop is @OurReflections. Where she finds statement pieces of art, she also does so with clothes. She graduated ASU with dual degrees in finance and economics as well as a Chinese minor. During the day, Elliana’s corporate job is in the semiconductor industry as a finance professional. Art in all forms allows Elliana the ability to balance out a technical and demanding career with patient creativity.

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Tuesday Night (2022), Oil on Canvas. 

In the time of making this piece, I suppose I was just trying to navigate through a time where I was going through a pretty big transformation, and started to feel the weight of everything holding me back. Sometimes the only way to move forward on your own is to let go, to kill all the little babies that live in you, because you just can’t carry them anymore.

Tired (2022), Charcoal.

 I honestly don’t remember why, but I was just frustrated and alone one night and just needed a release. Charcoal is such an expressive, immediate medium that just pulls everything out of you, it’s a little more raw than paint, which makes it a great for when you feel those bouts of restless frustration.

Esther Jung

Korean

Esther Jung is an artist located in Los Angeles.

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haze (2023) mixed media

Looking back everything was mostly a blur. the only things that I remember were the times it hurt.

Ethan TSE AKA 35PPCURATED

Chinese

My cultural upbringing shaped me to initially view the world as hostile where someone else will always be better than you. I now chase perfection, an unrealistic concept to seek belonging in the upbringing I grew up with.

Ethan Tse, aka 35PPCURATED, is a 4th year at Arizona State University majoring in Business Communication who have always appreciated art and the creative world. He participates with digital design and artwork.

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Household Objects (2023) Laguna Clay EM342 Whiteware, low-fire glazes

Honestly, I just want to make fun and cute things that I can incorporate into my daily life. I feel like when you make or find little things that make you happy, that you can use on a daily basis, then life can become all the more sweeter.

Francheska Juban

Filipino

I have been someone who has moved around the world my entire life, so “belonging” was a concept I was desperately chasing for years and years. Once I started letting go of that desperation, started looking inward and truly expressing myself by doing the things I want to do, I found myself being surrounded and supported by wonderful people. In my own solace and creative freedom, I found a sense of belonging.

Francheska Juban is a graduating senior studying Supply Chain Management at ASU. She just started throwing on the wheel just under 2 months ago, and looks forward to further diversifying her ceramics profile in the future!

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Year of the Rabbit (2023) French Terry Drop-Shoulder Hoodie with Velvet Lining.

Celebrate your zodiac year with this bunny hoodie, featuring a hood with black velvet lining and bunny ears, 兔 back print, embroidered waves near cuffs (water rabbit 2023), french terry material, and drop-shoulder fit. Releasing for sale near end of March at hanterdesign.com.

HANTER KIM AKA HANTER

Korean

Turning little personal details such as my birth year and zodiac animal into creative, marketable works is something I’ve always liked doing. It’s very fulfilling to see people appreciate it. I always liked creating things based on my personality and background. As a clothing brand, my goal is to represent a refined version of myself and grow my own audience.

Hanter Kim is an owner of his clothing brand (hanterdesign.com) and coffee business that is currently in its start-up phase. He is also a full-time worker in logistics and an ASU graduate (2021) with two degrees in Supply Chain Management and Computer Information Systems.

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Cherry Blossoms – Acoustic guitar (engelmann spruce, rosewood, maple, mahogany, and mother of pearl inlay)

Inspired by the cherry blossoms found in Asia, and the liveliness of Spring time.

IRENE WONG AKA irxnx.

Chinese & Filipino

Being creative and growing up in Arizona, I sometimes felt disconnected from both others around me and Asian culture. The only way I was able to feel like I could learn about what life was like in Asia was through media, such as movies and music. The cherry blossom guitar is a tribute to that time in my life, where I learned more about the world, largely through the lens other Asian artists.

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Tim Henson (Digital, Procreate) 2022

DPR IAN (Digital, Procreate) 2022

What are you looking at? (Digital Procreate) 2022

Justin Bieber (Sketch, pencil) 2022

All my artworks are inspired by portraits and murals. It was a challenge for myself as an artist to go beyond scenic or cartoon drawings and really test my limits of drawing real people.

Isaac Wong AKA TOASTY

Chinese

Growing up in the an asian society and environment in South Korea, we as kids are always taught to be driven by homework and academic achievment. As I got older I realize there should be a healthy balance between Academics and passion. Drawing has always been a big interest of mine and I want to inspire other kids to also explore their passions, artistic or not.

Isaac Wong is a junior at Arizona State University, studying Computer Science.

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Asia in Distress (2023)
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“Asia in Distress” is inspired by the difficulties I encountered coming to terms with my identities as an Asian American, and the many times it felt like my life was some elementary schooler’s DIY modge-podge project. Glueing everything together hasn’t been easy, but in the process it has become something beautiful.

Ivan PAN aka inpan

Chinese

Growing up as an ABC, I always felt like I was living two lives. My weekends were spent at Chinese school and the local Chinese church, while my weekdays were spent as an American. For a long time, I had a hard time coming to terms my identity: “Am I American, or am I Chinese? Where do I fit in? Who am I, really?”. To the first question, I answer: Today, I am both. I’m proud to be an American-born Chinese and be part of the Asian community here. And as for the other questions, that is something I am continually discovering as I live my life, and something that is always changing. My art represents my reconciliation with my multi-cultural identity.

Ivan Pan is currently a senior at Desert Vista High School. He plans to go to ASU next year with a major in Supply Chain Business. In his free time, he enjoys playing/listening to music, going to the gym, and playing games.

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Arcosanti Architecture (2022) on Film

I loved the details the architect of Arcosanti put into the community and wanted to capture this piece to remember for years to come.

Arcosanti (2022) on Film

Taliesin (2023), on film

Captured the great Frank Lloyd Wright’s midcentury home.

Skate (2023), on film

I had such a fun time capturing the geometrical shapes and sizes that were a huge part of Arcosanti.

Taliesin West (2023) on Film

I captured this section due to its red hues and notable seating structure.

Skate (2023), on film

Inspired by some of Giovanni Reda’s work.

Jaden Liu

Chinese & Mexican

At some points of my life, growing up with two vastly different cultures left me feeling some sort of disconnect with both cultures since I was not fully either one. I always felt out of place until I began to express my creativity through multiple forms of art. Either through redesigning interiors, taking photos, or even designing structures for architecture, I felt a place of belonging. I loved and will continue to love tapping into my creative side and entering this wave of freedom.

Jaden Liu is a fourth year majoring in Architecture at Arizona State University. She enjoys taking film photos and expressing herself through multiple forms of art and media.

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Bliss (2023)

Bliss TKL designed by moesode, GMK Froyo designed by The_Royal.
Built by opaliT

Jarod Huynh

Vietnamese

There are many ways to express yourself, and finding the medium in doing so allows you to explore yourself and further advance your interest.

Jarod Huynh, also known as opalit, is a content creator and keyboard enthusiast that focuses on the building of keyboards for himself and others interested in the hobby.

Red String of Fate (2023), Acrylic on glass.

Red String of Fate is inspired by the famous animation, Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name) directed by Makoto Shinkai. The film is based off of the East Asian belief that the red string is an invisible thread connecting those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstance in which the thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break. I’ve found this correlating to the exhibit’s theme of ‘belonging’ because as much as we may stretch far from or tangle too deep away, our identity in our own culture will never break.

 


Human vs Titan (2023), Acrylic on glass

Human vs Titan is based off of Eren’s Titan form from the Japanese manga series, Attack on Titan. Wanting revenge against the titans that put his hometown in ruins, Eren discovers that he himself is one of them. I was inspired by this story arc because as part of the Asian-American community, I’ve grown up to see that we are too hard on ourselves; sometimes to a point of being our own enemy.

Jemimah Dela Cruz aka mahalin art

Filipino

Growing up in the states with a Filipina mother who thrives in media, representing our culture loud and proud any chance we got is all I’ve ever known. I’ve never been embarrassed to showcase my culture; I would even say it filled me with joy to share fun facts and lumpia with anyone willing to listen. However being proud doesn’t necessarily mean I felt like I belonged. There was a sense of pressure everywhere I walked, as if the only thing special about me was that I was an immigrant who didn’t bring peanut butter sandwiches to lunch. It wasn’t until I learned a traditional Filipino dance for the 2016 Miss Teen Philippines pageant that I discovered my passion in connecting art and culture together. From then on I gathered a group of friends to perform a variety of traditional dances on any stage we could find and we were proud. The COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 broke me. I was stuck for a while, not knowing how to express the art of my culture when we weren’t allowed to meet with friends, let alone perform. During quarantine, I brought out my old paints and what originally started as painting on glass as gifts for friends, turned into a small business idea. I knew that if I started anything, the Filipino culture would be incorporated; hence the name ‘Mahalin Art,’ mahalin meaning “to love” in Tagalog. So what does “belonging” mean to me? Belonging is finding love wherever you are and in who you are.

Jemimah dela Cruz, creator of Mahalin Art, is a lover of arts and performing. She hand paints anime characters on plexiglass for commissions and is soon branching out to sell original pieces as well.

I’s For Spring (2023)
Mixed media: digital pastel and pencils, photography

Belonging to me refers to a space that I’ve built and cultivated for myself, and an environment able to encourage growth and authenticity. Prior to my ventures in my current cultural organization’s affair (VSA at ASU), it was difficult to understand what a sense of belonging would feel like. In my years of growth over the course of my college career, however, being surrounded by people who understand my background as a Vietnamese American, within the westernized and whitewashed society especially, holds a sense of unity that pushes me to improve beyond my known boundaries. To know that there are people with similar dreams for a future seemingly impossible inspires me to keep moving forward on a path that I’d be proud to challenge.

Kaitlynn Le

Vietnamese

Belonging to me refers to a space that I’ve built and cultivated for myself, and an environment able to encourage growth and authenticity. Prior to my ventures in my current cultural organization’s affair (VSA at ASU), it was difficult to understand what a sense of belonging would feel like. In my years of growth over the course of my college career, however, being surrounded by people who understand my background as a Vietnamese American, within the westernized and whitewashed society especially, holds a sense of unity that pushes me to improve beyond my known boundaries. To know that there are people with similar dreams for a future seemingly impossible inspires me to keep moving forward on a path that I’d be proud to challenge.

Kaitlynn, also known by her artist alia KL&, is currently a fourth year student studying interior design at ASU. Outside of her educational endeavors, she holds great passion and interest for all things involving creation. Making art for the sake of creation has been her approach within the last year, and being able to hold such a mindset has enabled her to experience art on a deeper sense, encouraging her to continue striving for more. Much of this translates to simple art, and holds potential to develop into more complex works utilizing a variety of mediums.

Jiufen (2022) Digital Drawing

This drawing was based off of Jiufen Old Street in Taiwan. I got the chance to visit a few years ago with my family and the lanterns were so beautiful! It is said this place is the inspiration behind the scenery in Spirited Away.

Lindsey Brannen

Taiwan

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Growing up in a multicultural household gave me the opportunity to see what life and culture is like in two different countries thousands of miles apart. Visiting creative parks and even going to appliance stores in Taiwan allowed me to see how different cultures and values manifest in physical product and art forms. Drawing and design to me is a really fun way to visually showcase my personality and these experiences.

Lindsey Brannen is a senior Industrial Design student at Arizona State University. She has a passion for improving quality of life through design and loves to draw and create art in her free time.

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2014 Spider Verse Drive (2023) Digital Oil

Every time I listen to Forest Hills Drive (2014) , I’m like “damn he’s literally me”. Every time I watch “Into the Spider-Verse”, I’m like “damn he’s literally me”.

Michael Kong AKA PILLOWJAR

Chinese & Cambodian

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Being Asian gives you insane work ethic; work ethic that makes life seem pointless if you’re not dedicating your time to mastering some sort of skill set. this being a double-edged sword, I’ve chosen an endeavor that takes a lifetime to master.

Michael Kong, aka pillowjar, is a funny little guy. A silly little goober. A whimsical young lad. A goof-ridden scoundrel. A jokester. Prankster, even. Also he paints.

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Sweet Escape (2022) Digital Photography

Nature has always been my form of escape from reality. Immersing myself in the mountains, forests, and lakes of Arizona has always given me the opportunity to see the beauties of the world and that there is more to life than school and work. Looking at the scenery Arizona offers has always made me feel free and euphoric.

MICHAEL NGUYEN

Vietnamese

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As one of the few Asian American kids in my school, I know what it feels like to be excluded from the majority. As a child of Vietnamese refugees, I have seen the different ways trauma can affect survivors. While my mom was able to talk to me about her experiences as a refugee, my dad was the exact opposite. He never talked to me about his experiences, and because of this, we do not have a close relationship. Feeling isolated from the majority and my family has caused me to become reserved and keep myself busy with work and school to avoid the loneliness I feel. My experiences of constantly being and feeling alone is reflected in my photography, where there are usually no people in it.

Michael Nguyen is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Arizona State University, majoring in Medical Studies and Public Service/Public Policy (Health Policy). He does digital photography, where he takes his photos on his Nikon D5200 and edit them on Lightroom. He aims to portray a sense of nostalgia, loneliness, and peace through his pictures.

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A Starry Night (2022) Digital

Train ride at Dusk (2020) Digital

Clouds (2020) Digital

The Final Straw (2021) DigiTAL

I don’t get inspiration from a singular source; I tend to sporadically draw when I feel something. I use Procreate, but am planning on expanding to using oils and poster paint in the future.

Michelle Zhang

Chinese

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I was raised in an emotionally stifling environment, so I didn’t get many chances to express myself. This upbringing most likely inspired me at a young age to start doodling whenever I was bored/overwhelmed. Unfortunately, I failed to value my work and didn’t think of myself as an artist for an ostensibly long time. Thanks to college, I was able to cultivate my love for drawing again, proving to myself that anyone can be an artist.

Michelle Zhang, currently a junior attending Vanderbilt University studying Human Organizational Development and Data Science. Draws for fun.

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Haru (2023), Digital Print

As the seasons change, the world around us transforms. The once barren trees come to life with vibrant green leaves and the flowers bloom in a myriad of colors. It’s a reminder that, just as nature transforms, so can we. With patience, hard work, and perseverance, we too can grow and bloom in our own unique ways, just like the flowers around us.. This piece is a playful visual representation of that spring.

Miggy Farjado aka miggy

Filipino

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Belong to me means a sense of comfortability. It’s a place where I can express myself authentically without reservation from judgement. In my past, this feeling of belonging never existed especially as an immigrant from the Philippines coming to the US. There was always a disconnect in both culture and communication, so that feeling made it difficult for me to initially express myself. Alongside the expectations of immigrant parents pushing for success in the stereotypical career paths, it looked as if creativity was never a path to explore. However, after gaining the courage to step out of that uncomfortable zone, I found myself able to freely express myself through many forms of art like photography and design. All I needed was a little push from myself, my friends, and the community I have found around me.

Miguel “Miggy” Fajardo is currently an aspiring product designer studying Industrial Design at Arizona State University. On the side, he is a passionate creative that uses a plethora of mediums such as photography, digital design, & videography to create his art. His early hobbies in illustration & graphic design has heavily influenced his main medium of photography, allowing him to create uniquely stylized works. As of recent, many of his inspirations comes from the look of analog film & cinematic stills from movies, as well as fashion editorial shoots. With all of these styles combined, Miggy uses different aspects of these inspirations and incorporates them into his own unique and ever-changing style of photography & design.

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ramen (2022) digital art

despite what the title says, this piece clearly portrays a girl eating items that are not commonly found in a traditional ramen bowl, ultimately eliciting a creepy aura surrounding the character when context is omitted.

bubblegum kiss (2023) digital art

playing into the themes and colors of both valentines day and the lesbian flag, this piece was created to showcase innocent high school love between two female classmates.

exposure (2023) digital art

in the background of this piece, filipino culture is visible everywhere; traditional filipino clothing is worn by the couple in the picture frames, an old popular teleserye is playing on the TV, catholicism is shown in the decorations on the wall, filipino food is being cooked in the kitchen, and even the layout of the room is inspired by filipino architecture. while the subject is surrounded by filipino culture, she is consumed by the observation that she looks nothing like her american barbie doll, comparing her dark hair and skin to the plastic symbol of beauty in her hand.

Rizza Apostol AKA MAYARI

Filipino

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Growing up, my mother used to pack me homemade lunches to bring to school and I’d always get embarrassed of the filipino meals she’d cook because my classmates would often ridicule me for the way it looked or smelled, thus alienating me both from them and my own culture as i tried to diminish my filipino identity in order to adhere to their american lifestyle. although it is demonstrated in such an extreme and exaggerated way, this piece represents a sort of cultural dissonance as the subject seemingly eats something that is considered disgusting to viewers, but is considered normal to her. the title of this piece, ‘ramen’, suggests that she is merely eating exactly that, and that the audience is forced to believe otherwise, taking on the perception that my old classmates once had.

Based in Phoenix, Rizza Apostol (aka MAYARI) is a self-taught illustrator with no formal training in the fine arts. Despite this, she has been honing her craft for nearly 20 years and hopes to develop some sort of consistency in her artistic choices. MAYARI’s lack of commitment and crippling indecisiveness has allowed her to pursue a wide variety of art forms and styles, ranging from hyperrealistic portraits on paper to vintage anime inspired illustrations on screen.

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CHASA – Thank you -(2022) Merch

The Chinese American Student Association at Arizona State University released their first ever merch drop the 2022-2023 school year. The design is inspired by the “Thank You” grocery bag, that is commonly given out at Asian or Chinese restaurants in America.

Samantha Wang

Chinese

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Food is one of the strongest things binding me to my Chinese heritage. Having gone through the struggles of assimilation themselves, my parents wanted to ensure my sisters and I could be as “American” (of course referring to Western and White culture) as possible. This meant growing up there was not a strong emphasis on culture in my home. As a result I never learned Mandarin growing up, so I struggled to connect with my grandparents throughout my childhood. However, I still am very close to my grandmother and a large part of that is credited to food. My grandma loves to cook and even more so to eat. So every holiday, birthday, or just for fun my family, grandparents, and I would go out to eat at local Chinese restaurants. Although we could not discuss what I had done in school that week or what shows we were watching, she could show me what foods were her favorite, and she remembered which ones I liked as well. Normally, the “Thank You” bags these restaurants give are a form of showing appreciation towards us for visiting and supporting their business. But in my design, I say thank you to these restaurants instead for building culture within our communities and giving Asian Americans the opportunity to share love and good food with one another.

Samantha Wang is a Sophomore at Arizona State University studying Graphic Design. Samantha began creating art as a young child, and since then has explored a variety of mediums and art forms such as wool felting, sewing, painting, sculpting, and doll repainting. Now, she spends most of her time focusing on oil and acrylic painting, drawing, crocheting, jewelry making, and graphic design. Some of her main inspirations in art are Tomoko Nagai and Ai Yazawa.

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Miss Vietnam Southern California (2023), Digital Photography

These photos were taken during Lunar New Year celebrated in Southern California hosted by an event named “Tet fest” which in is a celebration of Tet or Lunar New Years. The photos include the beauty pageant, live performances and lion dances.

Steven bui aka preset steven

Vietnamese

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Growing up the only times I felt my sense of belonging was during Tet / Lunar New Year because of families and friends coming together to embrace our culture. My Vietnamese culture. Even if it was simple as giving a red envelope or participating in lion dances at nail salons, Tet was the only time of each year when I felt my belonging, and is the reason why it’s my favorite holiday.

Steven Bui (Preset Steven) is a senior at Arizona State University studying Business Sustainability. He started his Photography as an intern for ASU VSA and now he travels to different VSA groups throughout the country photographing each of their main events.

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Bao (2023) digital

Draka (2023) digital

Drunk and Sad (2021) digital

Oni Yuki (2021) digital

Spring Sakura (2019) digital

UNBEATABLE (2021) digital

Effluxion (2022) digital

Self-Portrait (2023) digital

Sera Mai (2020) digital

Spring Rest (2021) digital

Maid and a Vandal (2022) digital

My artwork is heavily based off of the popular anime (Japanese animation) art style. The style heavily emphasizes and strives for visual appeal, human figure, and cuteness.

Tofumang

Korean

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Despite being raised by Korean-speaking parents, I never learned to speak Korean very well, and it was difficult for me to connect and communicate with my own family and relatives. While not being too involved in my own culture and the roots of my family, somehow I instead found myself being obsessed with Japanese culture and every aspect of it. I strive very hard to replicate the Japanese art style and I hope that my artwork gives off the impression that the artist is Japanese. While this may seem like the opposite of belonging to my own culture, this is what brings me my own sense of “Belonging.”

 

Tofumang is a freshman animation major at Arizona State University. He is a digital illustrator who creates anime-styled artwork.

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Cinnamoroll Rug (2023)

Cinnamoroll with party hat 🙂

WILSON TRAN AKA BOTWILSON

Chinese

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I’ve always seen my friends’ creative work and wanted to create something myself. I decided tufting was a hobby that I would enjoy picking up.

Wilson Tran, Botwilson, just graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Computer Information Systems. After graduating from ASU, he wanted to take a break from everything and have some free time for himself so he decided to buy a tufting gun and see where it will go. After a few rugs, he fell in love with the craft and that’s where his journey begins.

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Experimental Movements (2023)

Experimenting different type of movements to break beats.

Yohan Lai

Chinese & Vietnamese

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I watch a lot of action anime growing up and B-boy is the closest thing to it in the real world!

Yohan Lai is a nail artist, B-boy, urban dancer, photographer, videographer, content creator, interior designer, jam skater, and business owner. An artist with many skillsets but a master at none. No talent, pure passion.

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Replant the soul (2023) Ficus Microcarpa GINSENG

This sanctuary of my soul is a place of peace,

Where love and gratitude, boundlessly increase,

And the beauty that blooms, in every season hue,

Reveals the depth of my resilience, an irrefutable truth.

Allen Pan aka kaihuaren

Chinese

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“Replant the Soul” began in the summer of 2022. After purchasing my first plant for my terrarium, it flourished for several months. After that period of time, gnats began to appear, turning something I loved into a dilemma. In an effort to kill the gnats, I dried out the plant. Unfortunately, this also resulted in the plant withering. As soon as the bugs disappeared, I realized my plant was completely dead. In an effort to keep going, I tried salvaging anything that looked remotely alive for 5 more months.

The life and death of the plant became a metaphor for a relationship that I had, where, despite the love and beauty of the relationship, I felt enslaved by helplessness and desperation. It became a symbol of a once good thing that is now no more. Even after I realized my failure, I couldn’t throw away this plant; I tied an emotional connection to it.

On the day I felt liberated from the past, I was determined to finally empty out the dead plant and try once more in the same terrarium. That day was 3/22/23, and I am eternally grateful to those who have shown me kindness and hope. Feelings of liberation, love, and belonging were finally taking root within my soul.

Despite its simplicity, this new build requires intensive care. To properly care for it, it needs an owner who is very aware of its needs. Adding expanding clay hydroballs and a drainage layer protected the plants and soil if too much love was poured in. In order to provide different aspects of nutrition, different substrates were incorporated into the soil. Misting systems and LED grow lights were installed to ensure consistent essential care. With everything set into motion, new beginnings are upon us.


The name “Kaihuaren” is the English adaptation of the Chinese characters “開花人”, which translates to “flowering human”. Allen’s alias serves as a reminder to remain vulnerable and true, putting yourself before your soul and learning how to love the flawed, yet familiar reflections of self. Invariably in pursuit of the virtues of meaning and beauty, Allen seeks to deliver exactly that, gift-wrapped in a wide variety of artistic mediums, from terrarium builds to his music production projects.

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