Archive # 13, January - March 2003

Featured General Member Galler


Artist Statement and Bio

My work is a critical and affectionate exploration of the blessings, curses, contradictions, and opportunities of lives caught between cultures. Specifically, I have spent the past ten years photographing people in Los Angeles Chinatown. I myself am a bicultural person of Chinese origin, born and raised in Macau (in Southern China) in a non-traditional, Western-educated family where I studied some Chinese as a child, then came to America on a scholarship and stayed. As a visual artist, I am drawn to other people who live in places and times where cultures are caught up in tensions of adaptations and resistance affecting how particular individuals live their lives.

Of special interest to me are the contrasts in attitudes and behavior between those clinging tenaciously — indeed stubbornly — to the past, and those open to the possibilities for personal creativity and expression in blending the old with the new. In the past several years, L.A. Chinatown has undergone many changes due to the influx of Vietnamese people of Chinese origin. As individuals and groups make their accommodations to the demands of past, present, and future, a fleeting and interim culture of transition exists; it is my goal to capture these changes through my photographic images.

As I work with people, I find that stereotypes give way repeatedly to more complexity than any simple view can express or contain. One of the places where I have gone to photograph people is Cathay Manor, which is the first low income, senior citizen housing project in Chinatown, now home to many aged Chinese. In traditional Chinese families, the younger generation took care of the elderly in their homes, but as families have adapted to Western ways, this tradition has given way — yet the importance of family and knowledge of kinship networks persist.

Working on this ten-year project in Chinatown awakened in me the desire to go to China, which I did in 1986 and in 1998. Again I found, as in Los Angeles Chinatown, that the most interesting and dynamic people and images are found where cultures intermingled. To my great surprise, I found in populous Eastern China a stiffness in the people, a lack of emotional expressiveness, and an intellectual reserve which I attributed to the result of the many years of the Cultural Revolution. Yet as I continued on my journey along the ancient silk road into Western China, I found a minority group, the Uygurs, whose vitality and adaptive ingenuity inspired a series of photographs exhibited and published by Orange Coast College Art Gallery in 1993.

Included in the L.A. Chinatown images are photographic portrait collages of several pioneering Chinese women. These images, which have been blown up to photo murals (size 13' x10') were displayed on the exterior walls of the Metro Plaza Hotel in Chinatown (1994-2000). They represented several pioneering Chinese-American women such as Katherine Siu Fung Cheung, who was a cerebrated aviatrix in the 1930's, and Ruby Louie, a librarian instrumental in bringing the first branch of the LA Library system offering full bilingual services to Chinese Americans.

I intend my work to function as a bridge between cultures, to increase both our understanding of one another and our respect for the complexities of multicultural life.

To view more of Carol Nye's images, see the 2002 archives at TheScreamOnline.

Carol Nye was awarded first place for her image "Veiled Woman, Kashgar, Zinjiang, China" at the Women In Photography International 20th Anniversary Tea Time Exhibition, October 2001. She received an Epson 2000P printer.

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