Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month With 3.1 Phillip Lim’s Crafting Selfhood Exhibition

May is AAPI Heritage Month and with that brings a slew of events and exhibitions celebrating talents and distinctive works of the AAPI design community. Crafting Selfhood is one of those showcases currently on view now in New York City. Presented by 3.1 Phillip Lim at its flagship store and co-curated by Karen Wong (founder of Guilty By Association) and Lora Appleton (founder of the Female Design Council), the exhibition features the work of 13 Asian American female identifying artists and designers, including Janny Baek, Julia Chiang, Cecile Chong, Phaan Howng, Lena Imamura, Sonya Yong James, Myung Jin Kim, Antonia Kuo, Eunji Jun and Halin Lee, Eny Lee Parker, Linda Sormin, and Steffany Trần.

The theme of Crafting Selfhood, while unifying in the designers’ heritages and identities, goes beyond those common denominators. The exhibition was inspired by 3.1 Phillip Lim’s new handbag collection, the ID, which takes Creative Director Phillip Lim’s beloved ID bracelet and juxtaposes it against smooth nappa leather, effectively recontextualizing the hardware in a new setting.

The thirteen artists share similar anecdotes with their works, offering a dialogue on how form, technique, and medium inform the creative process. Wen Zhou, CEO & co-founder of 3.1 Phillip Lim, shares more: “The title of our show, Crafting Selfhood, reflects on how artists are sharing their heritage. As they craft their individual stories, they are literally crafting works of art. This is very personal to Phillip and I as clothing is our vehicle to tell our story and share who we are, so it was important to us to use our platform and highlight the many ways AAPI artists are exploring and defining their heritage and identity through materiality. It’s thrilling to see the breadth of the creative process — from glazed to unglazed ceramics or delicate to human-sized objects or woven wall hangings.”

Below, each artist reveals exclusive insights into their art:

sculpture on a plinth in a neutral toned clothing store

Eunji Jun and Halin Lee

sculptures on wooden tables in a neutral toned clothing store

Julia Chiang

Eunji Jun and Halin Lee of wknd-lab.com: “<Complexion 2.0> The work utilized cosmetic waste generated in the manufacturing process of cosmetic brands. <Complexion 2.0> delves deeper into the theme of skin, using the word “complexion” to reflect the intricate nature of human relationships and the multifaceted aspects of identity. Crafted from individual lumps with flesh-like textures, the sculptures symbolize the intertwining bonds between individuals, evoking a sense of intimacy and warmth.”
\\\ Follow them at @wkndlab.official

Julia Chiang: “I imagine myself moving through this world as semi deflated or sometimes feeling completely on the verge of bursting. My vessels are ways for me to make objects that reflect this feeling of us as containers, as attempting to hold it all while leaking and dropping and falling, and still standing.”
\\\ Follow her at @juliachiang

Lena Imamura: Lena Imamura’s ongoing ‘Heads’ series, an extension of her exploration of unseen realities, delves into the multifaceted nature of self-perception through resin self-portrait sculptures. Each piece in the series embodies a different persona, reflecting the varied personalities that coexist within her. This work invites viewers to explore the subtle forces of internal identity and the complex interplay between the seen and unseen aspects of one’s self.

In her new ‘Flower Messages’ series, Lena draws inspiration from a flower spirit she often encounters in her dreams. These artworks translate received messages into tangible forms, serving as visual affirmations that challenge the negative voices often resonating in one’s head. Each piece acts as a conduit for positive thoughts and self-reflection, encouraging viewers to embrace healing dialogues and the transformative power of nature and the subconscious.”
\\\ Follow her at @lenaimamura

Three digital art displays on pedestals against a beige wall, each screen showing a different abstract colorful image

Lena Imamura

various ceramics and sculptures on wooden tables in a neutral toned clothing store

Cecelia Chong (left table)

vibrant tropical-themed painting displayed above steps adorned with flower sculptures.

Phaan Howng

Cecile Chong: Cosecha Dorada / Golden Harvest”  is a pair of guagua (Quechua for baby) sculptures. Ecuador, where I’m from, is one of the largest producers of roses in the world (among The Netherlands, Colombia and Kenya). I want to honor the fact that Ecuadorian roses are beautifying the globe. I added dry red and yellow roses from Ecuador to my guagua sculptures which represent humanity in my work.”
\\\ Follow her at @cecilestudio

Phaan Howng:I create satirical paintings and installations of plants as seen in a post-human era in which nature militantly defends itself from future colonizers, what I call an “optimistic post-apocalypse.” They always depict landscapes of chaotic dense vegetal matter with toxic-colored patterns, “choking out” the picture plane and obscuring what may lurk behind it. I use these viewscapes in my paintings and installations based upon my fascination with how plants can create the facade of a healthy environment, camouflaging the slow violence of human environmental disruptions. I’ve been exploring Western botanical and horticultural histories, anthropology, and botanical goth literature. This exploration is tempered with my humor and love of satire, but also as a coping mechanism to handle the depressing stories around climate change. One of the results from this research is the painting, A Night At the Home Depot Garden Center and the objects around it. They are rooted in my desire to understand the human aspirations to manipulate, control, and contain plants versus living symbiotically with them.”
\\\ Follow her at @phaanlove

Myung Jin Kim: The terracotta vessels I make from the Paradise series, are a reflection of the values of my Korean cultural upbringing and my experience as an adult in the west.  Much of the work is based on the magical ancient plants that surround my home as talisman in Los Angeles.  In the spirit of Hwajodo folk paintings from my native Korea, I include owls in my botanical landscapes as they offer a mythological presence and the suggestion of wisdom to the work.”
\\\ Follow her at @mjkimstudio

various ceramics and sculptures on wooden tables in a neutral toned clothing store

Myung Jin Kim (terracotta vessels), Antonia Kuo (right), Janny Baek (flower sculpture)

sculptures on plinths in front of a mirror in a clothing store

Linda Sormin

Antonia Kuo: “I made the ceramic works in Crafting Selfhood in an industrial casting foundry. They are hollow sculptures that begin as sculpted wax and are subsequently coated in layers of ceramic slurry and silica until a thick shell builds up around the form. The wax is melted out of the ceramic at high heat, leaving an embodied negative space, a high-fidelity recording of the original wax. Traditionally this mold would then be used to pour metal into the ceramic shell destroyed in the process of casting metal, but I choose to make works that unconventionally freeze this intermediary state, suspending time and celebrating the innate presence and distinct personas encapsulated by the ceramic.”
\\\ Follow her at @antonia.kuo

Linda Sormin: “As a way to connect more deeply with our Thai culture, my mother teaches me Thai words, and we discuss their meanings. “Sup-sohn” refers to the complexity of things or situations in which not everything can always be seen.  I felt it was a fitting title for this sculpture, since it reveals itself slowly, over time. “Of all phenomena, the mind the forerunner”, is a Thai Buddhist saying that inspired this sculpture that holds generous space within its own form.  I saw this text hand-written on a wooden sign, nestled in the trees along a forest path leading up to a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand.”
\\\ Follow her at @lindasormin

Eny Lee Parker: “This floor lamp draws inspiration from the architectural buildings of New York City. Crafted with a solid oak base, reminiscent of skyscrapers, its hand-blown glass elements emit soft LED light, evoking the imagery of forming clouds. Ceramic dials, intricately connected to each glass light, add a tough of chaos but intention that the city represents.”
\\\ Follow her at @enyleeparker

Modern store interior with wooden chair and floor lamp with multiple bulbs in the foreground

Eny Lee Parker

various ceramics and sculptures on a pedestal and on a wall

Janny Baek (center), Sonya Yong James (right)

sculptures on plinths in front of a mirror in a clothing store

Janny Baek

Janny Baek: “My work tries to show the beauty of the strange, alien, and foreign. I insist that there is gravity and meaning in beauty and joy. I use imagery from nature, like flowers, creatures, and clouds, not to mimic them, but as a way to think about life on the planet, and our place in this world. I find it fascinating that even the things we are familiar with, or think we understand, are full of mystery.”
\\\ Follow her at @janny.baek

Sonya Yong James: “Working with textiles, found objects, and clay, I investigate themes of identity and memory in my interior and shared life. These sculptures bring heightened attention to intimate connections and the webs that connect everything. The sculptures bring an intimate and emotional sensibility to the foreground while suggesting visual cues that lead you to another time and place. Every work represents a person or place from the past couple of years in the artist’s life.”
\\\ Follow her at @sonyayongjames

Steffany Trần: “Part of a five piece collection, the two lights on show are first debuting at Crafting Selfhood. They are designed through the lens of finding balance in the contrary, whether in form, material, or purpose. I wanted to create comfort within tension. The works feature lampshades hand-applied with Dó paper—a historic paper made in Bắc Ninh, Việt Nam—grounded by ceramic bases. When illuminated, the glow highlights bits of bark from the tree it came from, connecting you to the natural world.”
\\\ Follow her at @vyvoistudio

black sculptural wall hanging on a wall

Sonya Yong James

ceramic and paper lamp on a plinth in front of a mirror

Steffany Trần

Crafting Selfhood is on view at the 3.1 Phillip Lim flagship store at 48 Great Jones Street in New York City until May 23, 2024.

Photography by Angela Hau.

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