Happy Hundredth Birthday, Tyrus Wong!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 26, 2010 12:30pm | Post a Comment

Tyrus Wong is a Chinese-American artist who's most best-known work was as the background artist largely responsible for the look of Walt Disney's 1942 film Bambi. He's also worked as a landscape painter, muralist, ceramicist, lithographer, designer and kite maker. Some of his well known paintings include Self Portrait, Fire, Reclining Nude, East and West. At 100 years old today and one of the earliest successful Chinese-American artists, he is a living legend.

Tyrus was born 黃齊耀 on October 25th, 1910 in (Taishan), China. When he was nine, he and his father moved to Sacramento, leaving behind his mother and sister, never to see them again. Father and son subsequently moved to Southern California where Wong attended Pasadena's Benjamin Franklin Junior High. It was there that his teachers noted his artistic ability and, after receiving a summer scholarship at Otis Art Institute, he left junior high.

He graduated from Otis in 1930. Wong’s first job was painting a brassiere ad that would appear on a large building on Hollywood Boulevard… although Wong reportedly didn't know what a bra was and mistakenly thought the that it was some sort of breast warmer.


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Monterey Park

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 23, 2010 07:00pm | Post a Comment


This blog entry is about the Los Angeles County community of Monterey Park. To vote for more Los Angeles County communities to be the subject of future blog entries, click here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County communities, click here.

Monterey Park is located on the western edge of the San Gabriel Valley at the junction of the Eastside and SELACO. It is surrounded by Alhambra to the north, San Gabriel to the northeast, Rosemead to the east, South San Gabriel to the southeast, Montebello to the south, East L.A. to the southwest, and Lincoln Heights to the west.

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Xu DaRocha - Painter, Photographer, Chinese TV & Cinema Veteran... and Dumpling Lover

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 31, 2010 11:55am | Post a Comment

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage, an occasion I marked by seeking interviews with several Asian-American artists (like Roommate's Ken Lambert) and blogging about Asian neighborhoods and such… One interview I attempted to land was Chinese-American artist Xu Darocha, now giving a whole new meaning to the concept of “Asian time” by getting her responses to me in time for National Cat Fish Month… To be fair, she’s been occupied with more pressing business, working on her amazing artwork.

Eric Brightwell: Hello Xu, thanks for letting me profile you. Happy Asian American Heritage Month. Have you done anything in recognition or celebration?

Xu Darocha: Not yet. I will make myself some dumplings soon. Will that count?

EB: Not really, unless you weren’t going to otherwise make them… plus it’s a little late! When I mention your name, almost everyone asks, “Is that her real name?” Do you get that a lot?

XD: Most of the people I meet are usually more confused about how to read “Xu.” I was born and raised in China. Xu is pronounced "zoo." "DaRocha" is the last name I took from my ex-husband when I was married. So yes – it’s my real name.

EB: When did you get into art?

XD: The year after I graduated from high school. The serious academic studying in [my] Chinese high school was overwhelming and suffocating me. The future it was leading to was even more depressing and suffocating. So I promised myself I would try this “painting” thing as soon as I could. And I got into art school a year later, for fashion design.

EB: How many arts are you involved in? I know of pottery, photography and painting. Anything else, or is that all?

XD: I want to think of myself as an artist that just makes things as I go. Painting, photography and pottery are just different forms of creation. I hope I will have time to try more things. I am also a part time stylist and an occasional translator. I think putting my own words or thoughts into anything I work on is a form of creation.

EB: Your Folds series depicts the light, shadows and textures of fabric in an almost fetishistic way that reminds me of the art of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Are you a fan of them? Can you talk a bit about your inspirations?

XD: Thanks. I like the word” fetishistic,” sounds really sexy. I like Ingres. In addition [to] the fact [that] I love his style and craft, what really got me was a story about him. When I read his biography years ago there was a story about when he was in his 80s, already famous and established, he would go check on his paintings at night after a long day of working and start to cry because it wouldn’t be as good as he wanted. There was something childish and sincere about that and it comforted me. One of the reasons I started the Folds series was because I missed painting a lot. I was doing photography for a few years prior to that, and some pottery stuff, but hadn't worked on any serious paintings for at least three or four years. Plus, I needed a good subject matter that would hold my attention for a long period of time.

At the same time I started to notice the fabrics. They’re often just background subjects and always seem to have this really random and casual look to them – but if you look closer, every wrinkle and crease is caused by something and in return causes something else to happen. The casualness is superficial to me. There is also a tension between all the elements: surface, causality and so on. It reminds me of the complexity of other things that seem to exist without reasons or any cause, much like our emotions. Because of this we are often drawn to the surface level of the story, and that is what I am trying to create here. I was also looking for a certain image quality – something somewhat intense, layers over layers of the painting, lots of color and detail, so I can just have a good solid reason to just paint, to OD on painting for a bit, because I hadn’t really painted for a while, and I missed it very much. So, for now, I will have my good dose of heavy oil painting. The next series will be very different.

EB: I look forward to seeing the next series! So, you worked on a show back in China. What show was it -- in case Amoeba has it or can get it on VCD or CVD?

XU: Yes, I was working as an art director’s assistant for a TV show called The Love Letters. After that I worked as a freelancer making props and murals for movies and TV shows in China.


(I I looked up The Love Letter and ?? but only found the Peter Chan comedy, a K-Drama, ???? , and the Shunji Iwai film,????? –all available on DVD at Amoeba, and yet none involving Xu’s contributions.)

EB: So what does your current work entail?

XD: Usually I go around looking for fabric without knowing what I am looking for. Most of the time I don’t know what will catch my eye. Then I usually spend a long time playing with them, folding them, wrinkling them, taking pictures of them, leaving them alone for a while, printing the plans out and trying to forget about them, before starting the process all over again. Sometimes it takes days or weeks to finalize a plan, and lots of those plans never become finalized into an actual painting. Or I will tell myself, “I am going to make a light, happy painting this time or a painting that reminds me of a certain person or event.” Then I go around looking for a fabric that somehow echoes that voice inside of me and I go from there. I did Fin this way. I knew I wanted something dark, fragile and lively. 

EB: Do you listen to music when you paint?

XD: Absolutely.

EB: Did you ever get a record player?

XD: Yes, I did.

EB: Good. Finally, why, when you were told to “Bring Your Own Sauce” to fellow Asian-American artist Cindi Kusuda’s pasta party, did you think “sauce” meant “booze”?

XD: I think that was you.

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Keep on Music New Wave and '80s Reunion Party - The Vietnamese New Wave Revival

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 9, 2010 07:19pm | Post a Comment

Last November, Keep on Music threw a New Wave + ‘80s Reunion at Bleu in Westminster. This isn’t new wave in the sense that a lot of people use the term, but rather a mix of Italo, Eurodisco and other ‘80s dance music that notably found considerable popularity with Asian-Americans in the 1980s. I was only turned onto the scene four years ago, by Ngoc Nguyen, who is a Vietnamese New Wave super fan (especially of Sandra).

Flash forward to the present and near future: March 27th. On that day, Keep On Music’s having a second New Wave + ‘80s Reunion at the Can Asian Entertainment Bar in Garden Grove. Unlike last time, I won’t miss this one and neither should you! Luckily for us newbs and the uninitiated, some key figures of the new wave scene graciously agreed to sit down with me and answer some questions about the Asian/Vietnamese new wave scene for Eric's Blog

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Chinatown

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 6, 2010 06:00pm | Post a Comment

Rooftops of Chinatown

Cathay Manor (where I've wanted to party since moving to Los Angeles
A quiet street in Chinatown

Chinatown (洛杉磯唐人街) is Los Angeles neighborhood located just north of downtown. To vote for other neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, click here.

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