Anomaly in the Veil

Museum Pick: March 23 - April 6, 2009

Anomaly in the Veil is a series of paintings derived from Angel Island immigration mug shots. The Chinese women immigrants quietly suffered internment and interrogation on Angel Island, San Francisco Bay, between 1910 and 1943. One of those women was my grandmother, Hom Shee Mock, who came to the United States in 1923, a year after she was sold to my grandfather. These installations endeavor to expose the fear that still haunts these women and consequently, their descendants.

Hom Shee Mock, 1923 | Acrylic on canvas, 42" x 27" | Photo: Jw Diehl

While I painted Hom Shee Mock, 1923, I lived with my grandmother's mug shot and interrogation transcripts, reading them repeatedly. It was an emotionally draining experience. A language barrier and family issues kept me and my grandmother from ever speaking, but her interrogation transcripts provided me with a glimpse into her life.

paintings derived from Angel Island immigration mug shots
Hom Shee Mock's Wedding Outfit from Her Village | Photo: JW Diehl

Following a 1998 exhibition of Hom Shee Mock, 1923, my mother wrote me a letter of appreciation for capturing her mother's sadness and anger on canvas. Up until that time, my mother and her siblings had kept up the façade that my grandmother had led a happy life. After years of unasked questions and unexpressed pain, the painting enabled my mother to begin to forgive and understand herself better.

Gift for the Grandmother (my wish for her past) | Photo: JW Diehl

Anomaly in the Veil pays homage to Chinese immigrant women--especially my grandmother--whose lives, more often than not, were never theirs to realize. I wanted to unveil these women's faces and unmask the oppression that sprang from generational factors, cultural mores, human greed or simply gender inequality.


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Balises :

angel Island, cynthia tom, Asian AMerican art, Chinese, Chinese American


You give family history a whole new interpretation. My own family history is always something that has really interested me. I think it is so important for people to know their roots. Thank you for inspiring me to think of new ways to bring my own history to life.

Etats Unis

This is very powerful work.


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