16" x 20", © Diane Tani, 1989
My work has developed from the personal and explanatory to the public and provoking. It is no longer sufficient to define myself, alone and isolated. It is important to recognize the circumstances in which we all live and interact. My goal is to examine and discuss, rather than to place blame. It is through these dialogues, that a solution may be found. In order to advance, we must understand one another.
I am continuing to work on two series, both of which are concerned with raising issues that have been concealed in our society. In the earlier series, I question the image and identity of Asian Americans, specifically, and the acceptance of these portrayals, generally. I wish to attack stereotypes and the complacent acceptance of them. My aim is to bring these problems to the surface in hopes of rousing attention to these disguised impediments.
This series has evolved from reinterpreting history to confronting concealment. Often, history is presented with nostalgia and a romantic reinterpretation. In this act of romanticizing, the atrocities are cleaned and polished. Through my work, I wish to deconstruct the images that the media uses to manipulate our perceptions.
Around 1988, I moved away from my earlier small format photo sculptures to 16"x20" chromogenic photographs. The size shift allows the pieces to communicate to a larger group of people at one time and, hopefully, also assumes the effect of a proclamation. The images continue to be culled from a variety of sources - the media, family photographs and archives. All of these images have shaped the perception of Asian Americans and relay messages of their own. I started to use text because many of the sentiments I am addressing are verbal, as well as visual. The language comes from both offensive media messages as well as family sayings.
For Women 's Work, a public art commission to raise awareness of domestic violence, I read statistics, histories, and clinical studies, but I wanted to show the people and attitudes involved in domestic violence - the resilience of the victims, the excuses of the batterer, the children who learn to repeat the abuse and the indifference in society that permits the violence.
At the Asian Women's Shelter, which addresses the specific needs for Asian immigrant battered women, I confronted my own myths about domestic violence. Instead of fractured, broken women, I saw empowerment, sustenance, resolution. The women were getting it together and starting anew.
In collaboration with the Asian Women's Shelter, we decided that an image with a child was important in linking domestic violence - a controlling tactic between partners - with child abuse and the cyclical nature of learned behavior along with emphasizing the effect family violence has on the entire family. By translating the work into Chinese and Korean, we hoped to raise awareness in those monolingual/bilingual communities.
We all need to confront the denial and silence of domestic violence that allows it to continue.
All text and photographs © Diane Tani.