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In my bright-colored and heavily varnished paintings, I am interested in (humorously) visualizing my investigation of the social space in which we interact. My vocabulary of eyes, ears, and part-bodies of beings are the basic means of aural, visual, and bodily communication that appear, reappear, and disappear, and are arranged and rearranged, serving as metaphors for how we communicate and miscommunicate. Formally, the pictures are informed by pop and street art aesthetics, as well as by abstract and color field painting.
On a core level, I want to express the continuous human struggle to completely understand one another. On a deeper, more personal level, drawing from my experiences and observations growing up and living as an Asian-American woman in New York City, my ideas are influenced by the knots that boggle me daily communication lost through categorical identification, lost in translation, lost through cultural fetishism and hence misunderstandings, lost through assumptions about one another based on their race, gender, and appearance, lost through ignorance based on class hierarchies.
My paintings are imagined attempts for a societal reshuffling of categories, re-ordered to the point in which there is no order no hierarchies, or race or gender barriers. Thus the eyes, ears, and part-body forms extend as metaphors for the social categories imposed on us. The beings are all hand-drawn to look similar but not same, giving each a human quality that makes them an individually important part of the picture. The beings become part of one another instead of existing separately as something other or different or opposite, and thus everybody (every being) can be recognized as unique parts of an integral whole.
As a larger idea that embodies my investigation, I also reconsider differences between cartoon figures and abstract forms not necessarily questioning the boundaries between figure and abstraction, but more specifically those between presumptions of seriousness in what look like abstraction, and presumptions of frivolousness in what look like cartoons. By reshuffling and obviating social categories, as well as by playing with visual stereotyping, my vision is to re-think our perceptions of the ways in which we understand and know each other, and our world.
-Anna Okubo (BUNNYCULT)