What are you? It’s a question people of mixed race have heard before, it’s a question without a very clear answer, but it’s also a question a new exhibit at the DePaul Art Museum is trying to answer.
War Baby/Love Child opened Thursday at the DePaul Art Museum and will run through June 30. The exhibit is co-curated by Vincent DePaul Professor of Art, Media and Design Laura Kina and San Francisco State University professor Wei Ming Dariotis and features the work of 19 artists, all of mixed race Asian-American descent.
The title for the exhibit, War Baby/Love Child, is a reference to a common stereotype regarding mixed race Asian Americans.
“I always wanted a t-shirt that said ‘War Baby’ on the front, and ‘Love Child’ on the back, because a lot of people would ask me, was your father in the military? Which is just a ridiculous question because we weren’t fighting a war in China in the late ’60s. But that image of the war baby is so strong, that that’s what people think of,” said Dariotis, who identifies as Greek, Swedish, English, Scottish, German, Dutch, Chinese-American.
The choice of title was controversial, with one gallery declining to show the exhibit because of the title.
“Art takes things that can be painful and transforms them into beautiful things,” said Dariotis. “We wanted to create something that people would be able to have not just an intellectual relationship with, but a passionate relationship.”
The exhibit features works from a variety of artistic styles and philosophies. One gallery features three works on similar subjects from very different perspectives.
Jenifer Wofford’s piece ‘MacArthur’s Nurses’ portrays a group of Filipino women walking through water. The piece references a staged photo of General Douglas MacArthur. Kip Fulbeck’s piece is a very straightforward photo portrait of a man, with the words “I am 100% Asian and 100% Black” written underneath in a rejection of the either/or mentality. Finally, a piece by Mequitta Ahuja features a woman’s head with a colorful explosion of culturally significant images emerging from it.
“So you see the three different approaches, one based on history and broader context , the self with a very straightforward portrait, and one that’s about the internal life,” said organizing curator Laura Kina.
For many of the artists, this exhibition is a unique experience.
“This is the first explicitly mixed race show I’ve been in, and it’s exciting,” said artist Chris Naka. “Being involved in this show makes me think about my own practice and how my identity and my work is affected by being mixed race”
For Native American and Korean-American artist Debra Yepa-Pappan, this exhibit is an opportunity to show her work in a new context.
“This is the first time I’ve displayed my work where the target audience wasn’t other Native Americans,” said Yepa-Pappan. “I’m really glad to see that I’m getting a lot of support from the Native American community. For those Native Americans that are mixed race, and a lot of them are, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to choose one side or the other. You don’t have to deny your non-native part.”
Kina is teaching an Honors Junior Multiculturalism Seminar at DePaul that explores the issues raised in this exhibit, guided by the accompanying book, which she and Dariotis co-wrote.
“We’re always interested in a good hook in order to pose a question or make an argument through our exhibits,” said DePaul Art Museum Director Louise Lincoln. “And particularly with this show it’s good because it’s an extension of Laura’s teaching function.”
The museum will be hosting a variety of events to accompany the exhibit, including a screening of the film, “The Woman, The Orphan, and the Tiger” by Danish artist Jane Jin Kaisen Monday, April 29 from 6-8 p.m.