Artist Q&A > Andrea Chung

 
 

MCASD talks with the accomplished San Diego-based artist Andrea Chung, whose first solo museum exhibition opens at the Museum in May. Chung’s work is featured in the Jamaica Biennial 2017 and the Chinese American Museum’s upcoming Pacific Standard Time presentation Circles and Circuits: Chinese Caribbean Art in Los Angeles. Chung’s solo exhibition, Andrea Chung: You broke the ocean in half to be here, is on view at MCASD from May 18 through August 20, 2017.

MCASD: Your work has often explored the legacy of colonialism in Jamaica and the Caribbean. Can you tell us about your connection to this place?

ANDREA CHUNG: My mother is from Trinidad and my father is from Jamaica. As a child of immigrants, I experienced similar things you hear from other first generational children: the challenge of balancing both identities and understanding your place in the world. My practice began by investigating my family and the circumstances that caused them to be in the islands.

MCASD: You started out your career as a painter and over time began making process-driven works often involving unusual materials like sugar. How do you choose to work with a given medium?

AC: I am interested in material culture and the history of mundane objects we often take for granted. Sugar, for example, is in everything we eat and has a complicated history. Empires were built on sugar and developing countries are still struggling because of it. With all my work, I take the simplest material and tease out its story, examining the land and lives it has impacted. And I try to honor the labor of others with my own artistic labor.

MCASD: Many of your collages and prints incorporate found images, from historical photographs to advertising. Where do you find this source material?

AC: Most of the images I use come from either archives or the travel magazine Caribbean Travel + Life. I also use found tourism items sold in gift shops, such as postcards and photo booklets. These items are used to promote tourism to Americans and Europeans, and depict black bodies either as exotic, sexualized objects or as subservient, docile figures.

MCASD: Do you see parallels between the tourism economies of San Diego and Jamaica?

AC: The obvious similarities are that both Jamaica and San Diego are coastal communities whose economies are heavily dependent on tourism—and located on land that was stolen from indigenous people. Both locations preserve vestiges of their colonial past as tourist destinations, which I’ve always found peculiar. For example, the Cabrillo monument and replica of his ship, the San Salvador, are tourist destinations. However, I am more interested in how differently Jamaica and San Diego are marketed. If you look at the commercials used to promote California, such as the “Visit California” campaign, it features celebrities and outdoor activities. Juxtapose that with the “Come Back to Jamaica” campaign. This well-known commercial depicted exotic beauty, house servants, and an Uncle Remus figure. He encourages you to “come back to the way things used to be.” What is being implied here and to whom is this directed?