Observing life beyond the boundaries of our own experience enhances our understanding of how memories shape us. How do we form our subjective recollections? What impact occurs when a boundary - either self-imposed or imposed upon us - has been crossed? I found one answer in a photography project examining my own family history. Growing up with limited knowledge about where I came from was an isolating feeling. Through speaking with and photographing my parents and poring over their old photos together, this treasured narrative finally unfolded before me as a young adult. As a child, I did know that my father was much older than my mom and that he was a priest for most of his life before I was born. However, my origin and how my parents came together was not discussed. I felt an isolating sense of implied shame from the dynamic between my parents and others in public. I began one of my first photography projects by interviewing and photographing my parents separately. I examined some of their old photos and learned their own stories on how I came to be. Their memories were different from each other and they would not take photos together. So I double exposed my film and did two sessions, thereby “painting” them together. I connected the rawness of the story and went around the boundary in a simple but powerful approach. From there I have continued to explore the themes of boundaries and layers in my work. Portraits of others and self portraits over the years have identified marks in layered time and place. Identity, femininity and fetishization of Asian and mixed race culture have been recurring themes drawn forward. My work is also inspired by travel, culture and nature. As a former political science major with an emphasis on international relations, my goal in college was to travel and take pictures. As I have lived and worked, the images also consider time, space and marginalization. Objects considered odd can be just as interesting to me as architecture that has stood the test of time and shines in the light. I also enjoy exploring abstract painting and layers of painting in my work and have been influenced by conceptual artists that use graphics and self-portraiture. Recently, I have also been painting over images printed on canvas to emphasize the notion that photography is always subjective and never objective. My strongest work recently in my opinion has been more abstract with papers ripped or cut and imcorporated into mixed media paintings. In this day and age, I feel there can be very little objectivity in the human experience through expression and memory. Our expressions through social media and artificial intelligence in particular crown the idea that reality is created and maximized in our contemporary culture.
Description of the Work
The work on this forum represents travels, memory, culture and space. There are also some images which capture movement of light and color to sometimes evoke abstract painting and emotion. I am very interested in layers of meaning and form of work is often entangled with meaning for me. My over 25 years self-portrait project has focused on how I see myself as an Americanized Asian with mixed race heritage. I tend to dislike being categorized into one box and exist within and without adhering to imposed definitions or categories. The self-portrait project started from considering the days when my mother would define what was more Chinese or less Chinese and how I fit (or did not fit) into those ideas or stereotypes. While it is less so now, I have often been approached with a desire to define what I am, especially in racial terms. People of Asian descent often will guess that I am partly their race. The lack of categorization is something I embrace. If there is a category or place of belonging, it is something I define for myself.
Born within the decade after interracial marriage was legalized in the United States, Michele has conceptually explored the themes of family history, identity, race and gender for over 25 years. Utilizing mixed media, photography and painting, Michele's process is multi-layered and often painting and photography are incoroporated together in a work. Through freelance projects, Michele also brings her creative talents and knowledge to portrait photography, custom edited prints and paintings. She also works on websites for creatives and special open house/studio event projects. Michele's prior business and real estate background and multifaceted creative ability adds organizational skills to those wishing to create a special experience with their creative endeavors. Further, she utilizes and welcomes photographers and filmmakers to her home studio and property where there are many spaces for photography and filming. Michele enjoys creative storytelling through images and film and playing a small part in helping fellow creatives do the same.
As current Chair on the Riverdale School District Board, Michele is grateful to also participate on the MESD Regional School Board Equity Team, Oregon School Board Members of Color Caucus and the annual Asian American Youth Leadership Conference. She also volunteers with her daughter at many nonprofits in greater Portland through the Portland Chapter of the National Charity League. Finally, Michele gives back to her own public higher education experience as an Alumni Scholar at UCLA through participating in equity training and reading incoming student scholarship applications every spring.
Michele studied Art and Political Science at UCSB and was one of the last recipients of the Abrams Prize for Women Artists. Michele then transferred into UCLA as an Alumni Scholar scholarship winner and completed her bachelor's degree at the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture with world renowned artists, including Chris Burden and John Baldessari. After graduation in 2000, Michele focused on single motherhood and then later raising her four children while owning a successful clothing company. She has continued to explore the themes of space, memory and boundaries after coming back to art with years of life experience. The biggest influences on her work and practice have been Richard Ross and Chris Burden, both of whom challenged and supported her work, practice and well-being as a human and fellow artist.