Anela Ming-Yue Oh
Stoneware, Glaze, Pigmented Kozo Fiber,
10” x 5.5” x 5”
Nature is one of our greatest teachers: in creation, destruction, renewal, and balance.
Humanity has found ways to disrupt nature and impose ourselves on the landscapes that shape our experience of life. As humans trying to understand our relationship with nature, we have created harm and destruction to the land directly. This destructive tendency carries over to how we experience natural settings. Out of these interactions, nature in America has become deeply tied to national identity and an individual sense of belonging; and the “other” that is people of color is alienated. Spaces that should be healing, a reminder that we are part of something greater, are instead unsettling and even dangerous to many who are “other” in American society.
As an artist of mixed race heritage, I find that the deep struggle between pieces of my identity are mirrored in my relationship with the environment. I look for solace in the healing spaces of nature when I cannot be otherwise at peace with myself. Growing up in an area of Michigan that is overwhelmingly white in both its social and natural landscape, my family stood out. The enjoyment of moving through the rivers in waders was often interrupted with the realizations that the owners of the land around me were primarily white people who owned guns. Along with this bodily understanding of danger moving through the natural environments of my childhood presented an emotion I could never understand, as if nothing I could learn from nature would stay. If you cannot see yourself belonging in the space you are physically situated, how can you know where you are?
My cultural landscape is full of bright colors and smells from paper, ceramic, fabric and spices. I find that these markers of my culture are disruptive to many, especially in white spaces. David Batchelor writes in “Chromophobia”: “The other is over there: geographically/physiographically distinct. But the other that is color is everywhere: around and in and of us, a part of everything we see every day in our every waking moment.” The art I create imagines landscapes of other worlds, other futures, by reclaiming it through materials, colors, and smells of my own culture. Through my materials I can build growths that combine elements of the natural world and experiment with scents and colors from my personal history. This beauty, wonder and exploration that comes from it is not only my reclamation of my own presence and experiences in natural space, but the creating and imagining of how nature will expand and vibrate with accessibility to all.
Anela Oh is a multidisciplinary artist in love with curry and the ocean. She holds a BFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and has recently started a term serving on the board of Hand Papermaking Inc. Her art practice is deeply grounded in a sense of community and sharing her skills with others through playful experimentation and collaboration. She uses materials that have a life of their own such as clay, paper, and fiber to feed her studio practice and create environments full of color and texture. As a mixed race artist of Malaysian Chinese descent, she utilizes imagery, colors, textures, and smells from her cultural heritage to pay homage to the work of her ancestors as she builds new worlds and futures. Her work aims to inspire a sense of hope and proposes visions of a future that includes marginalized voices by choosing to take a joyful and playful approach while discussing immigrant histories. She is currently the Artist in Residence at Sonoma Ceramics.