Program Type: 
YBCA and Chinese Culture Center present
Daily Lives
February 26, 2011 - June 12, 2011
Front Door Gallery


Inspired by artist Song Dong’s investigations of family, consumerism, and the small meditative moments that punctuate an ordinary life, Daily Lives is a group exhibition curated by Abby Chen and borne out of a collaboration between YBCA’s Community Engagement Department and the Chinese Culture Center. Featuring the mixed media work of local Asian-American artists Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik Jennifer Ewing, Cynthia Tom, Liu Xianbiao, Imin Yeh and Stella Zhang, Daily Lives examines the reality and occasional sublimity of everyday existence through a variety of sensory experiences. Check frequently for updates on hosted artist workshops and demonstrations inside the Room for Big Ideas.

Activities during the Good Fortunes — Song Dong: Opening Night Party, Fri, Feb 25:

Participate with Stella
7 - 9 pm
Bring your own shopping bag for an interactive, participatory workshop centered around the concept of creative reuse with Daily Lives artist Stella Zhang.

Discarded Repairs
7 - 11 pm
Bring your treasured objects, scraps of material, little mementos and Cynthia Tom and Jennifer Ewing, with the help of adhesives or sewing, will help you re-imagine your discarded treasures.

Blend a Scent with Sita
9:30 - 11 pm
What can we sniff out with our noses? Is it familiar or strange? Odors are linked to survival, memory, and our perception of difference. In an era of globalization, what does home smell like? Join artist Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik in exploring your powerful sense of smell. Participants will collaborate to blend a scent to be included in her piece Close to Home on view in YBCA's Room For Big Ideas.

Artist Statements

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, Close to Home
What can we sniff out with our noses? Odors are linked to survival, memory, and our perception of difference. As invisible signifiers, what role do the senses play in our formation and recognition of each other? How do we taste, smell, and touch, and what are the politics of the senses? In my work as an installation artist, I explore how these themes are evidenced in the fleeting materials we consume every day. Food and scent are unruly substances — pervasive and polarizing. My materials do not want to be archived. I have to chase them down and sweep them up. It is partially for these reasons that the senses have been placed in a hierarchy: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. So what happens when I ask you to taste and smell art as much as you see it? As a strategy for engagement and shifting the relationship between the artist and viewer to artist and participant, my work is often site specific, rooted in and shaped by its location. But how do we define location in an age of diaspora and globalization? I am also interested in tracing movement: the movements we make today and the movements we've made for centuries. If globalization has been a long time in the making, how does it shape our experiences of home? I want my work to be challenging and impractical; I want art to ask questions.

Cynthia Tom, Stories to Tell: Discards and Variances
In a country where so much is wasted, artists use this readily available media to reinterpret how we interact with the world around us. Cynthia Tom explores the stories of discarded humans of the past and brings attention to the ones in her present. Using little pillows and personal paintings she pays homage to those everyday items and individuals discarded by families and society. As a counterpoint to these stories, the hopefulness and concept of “journey” that Jennifer Ewing’s spirit boats bring create points of imagination, delight and healing. We are transported by their installation from inside YBCA and out.

Liu Xianbiao, The Road
This work is more than the footage of people’s mobility on the road; it’s the living of everyday life on the road. This is a set of images shot on Southwest China Road, recording people in the midst of the rapid development of Chinese society. The variety of people and vehicles on the road express views on these fast-changing times. People, despite a difficult life, put all their effort toward their own ideals. They yearn for a better life, but is this development the direction we want to follow? If so, what will become of the poetic landscape?

Imin Yeh, Good Imports
Good Imports is a collection of found objects that have been discarded. These objects have been wrapped in the style of fabric reserved for the cloth-covered boxes that house the “good imports” from China: teapots, medicine balls, mah-jong games and stone seal sets. The fabric is individually hand printed and then swathed around the objects, removing their function and turning them into “non-threatening” sculptural objects.

Stella Zhang, STUFF
Creating art is a process of self-examination, and this process enables me to collect my thoughts. We live in complex time that is in many ways defined by excessive want, greed, and waste. We all pursue a good life, but in this pursuit, do we really have choices? Without recognizing or aspiring to a specific destination, my art is a record of everyday life. This gives me an opportunity to look at myself more closely.

We all react to materials, whether we find them attractive or frightening. The desire for stuff makes one greedy and afraid at same time. We privilege finished commodities, but not how they are packaged. We shop at Safeway, but care little for the plastic shopping bags (unless we save them to collect more garbage). We ignore the cardboard used for packaging many of the goods we consume. We are overflowing with stuff, but this stuff must be made available to us and it has to be packaged. This packaging embodies a history and its own special language. Releasing plastic bags and cardboard from useless connections to human character enables one to redefine them. Perhaps they point to new concepts. Maybe their individual qualities have been neglected with the development of the consumer society. These objects contain many meanings that overlap. They represent our lifestyles. Damage, chaos, survival, and fragility define their relationship with humans. Faith and doubt are expressed in the objects illustrating the relationships between complexity and balance, order and disorder, attraction and repulsion.

I try to move freely in my works. Vast space blurs the boundary of areas and life events melt into a repeated circle. This is both my life and my work.

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  • Daily Lives
    February 25, 2011 – June 11, 2011
    Front Door Gallery
  • Daily Lives Artist workshops
    Jun 7, 2011 1:00pm – 6:00pm
    Front Door Gallery

    Join Daily Lives artists Sita Bhaumik and Cynthia Tom as they each lead drop-in, hands-on workshops inside their exhibit in the Room for Big Ideas. Sita will collaborate with guests to design an odoriferous new scent sure to conjure up memories and associations, while Cynthia will repurpose and reimagine guests' underused or forgotten personal items into something meaningful once again.

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Related Programs

February 26, 2011 - June 12, 2011
Downstairs Galleries

YBCA hosts a presentation of Waste Not, Song Dong's large–scale installation comprised of items that his mother and grandmother collected over a period of five decades

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Curator Statement

Daily Lives is an exhibition that considers the question of material objects in everyday life. What is our relationship with 'things?' What is their meaning to us as well as to cultural institutions? The five artists showcased in this exhibition explore the material of our lives in a context of collection. As a whole, they collectively reveal a curatorial position of the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, as well as embodying YBCA's Big Idea Reflect. What is deeply personal about an assortment of objects? Collections of scents, consumer goods, memories, secrets… What is it in human nature that compels us to gather objects, concrete or abstract, around us? Daily Lives examines the idea of a packaged life, a life in secret, a life in sense, and lives in transit. It is our 'stuff,' ourselves, our family, and our community. Liu Xianbiao sutures footage of the rural roads in China; Cynthia Tom collects fragments connected to generational memories; Imin Yeh wraps discarded objects into celebratory sculptures; Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik categorizes scents of mood; Stella Zhang washes and piles everyday packaging into a recording of a personal diary. Our lives become our collection and our connection to the memories of daily life. In this exhibition, the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, in collaboration with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, brings prominent artists of Bay Area and beyond to the Room for Big Ideas. Temporarily but officially, the RBI exists as an extension of the Chinese Culture Center: a reciprocal arrangement that locally reprises and recontextualizes thematic and formal elements of Song Dong’s exhibit while charting new territory in the investigation of ephemera and memory.

Daily Lives would not be possible without the dedication and efforts of both organizations. Very special thanks go to all artists, Kwai Mei Manor from CCC, and Nick Colin from YBCA.

— Abby Chen, Artistic Director, Chinese Culture Center
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Artist Bio

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and writer who received her B.A., Cum Laude, in Studio Art from Scripps College and is currently an M.F.A. and M.A. candidate at California
College of the Arts in Fine Art and Visual and Critical Studies. Sita has most recently exhibited with organizations such as 18 Reasons, SomArts, Kearny Street Workshop, Root Division, and Whitman College. She is a founding member of the 24hourshow artist collective, a programming committee member for Kearny Street Workshop, and an instructor at Rayko Photo Center. She has written for Art Practical and is the art features editor for Hyphen magazine. Raised in Los Angeles by Bengali and Japanese-Colombian parents, Sita is based in the Bay Area.

Cynthia Tom is a visual multi-media artist who is passionate about cultural identities and women’s issues and always questions the accepted norms in societies - Western or Asian. A seeker by nature and philosopher by circumstances, she not only speaks about the issues in our lives but also issues that are close to her heart - her ancestors and women. Her paintings persuade us to look beyond the aesthetic and encourage us to challenge stereotypes, taboos and traditional roles. A third-generation Chinese American, Cynthia draws inspiration from divergent cultures. Symbols, cues and clues fill her art, which is described by some as “Cultural Surrealism”.

Over the years her work has been exhibited as an artist in residence at the Legion of Honor and De Young Museum, San Francisco, and she regularly lectures on her work, issues related to women and Asian American women in the arts. Cynthia has been included in the Purdue University text book, “Women Artists of the American West”, edited by S. Ressler and “Traces of Migration and In-Betweeness: Poetics and Politics in Post-colonial Asian Women Artists”, by Laura Fantone, PhD -University of Padua, Italy/UC Berkeley. She is the Board President of Asian American Women Artists Association.

Jennifer Ewing's fine art revolves around the theme of Spirit Boats, a six year body of work that is dedicated to her father whose passing became the catalyst for a wide variety of media that reflects her interest in the world of spirit. She uses the boat as an archetype and metaphor for transformation.

As an Artist-in-Residence at the deYoung museum, her exhibition "Spirit Boat Directions" was composed of mixed media, paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations. The participatory event gave visitors a chance to make their own totem boats.

After moving to San Francisco in 1981, Ewing soon found a home at Developing Environments, an artist community in the Mission. A large space made it possible in 1989 to start her fine arts /mural painting business, Ewing & Germano, with her husband and fellow artist, Leo Germano. She is also currently a staff artist working with school and family programs at the Fine Arts Museums and the Contemporary Jewish Museum and runs a seasonal adult drawing programs at the deYoung. She has shown her work at many Open Studios and various venues in the Bay Area.

Xianbiao Liu was born in Weishan, a city in Shandong Province, China in 1969. He has studied both at the Shandong Academy of Art, as well as the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. From 1993, he has taught in the Fine Arts Department at Guangxi Normal University in China. Since 2007, he has been a resident of the Song Village artists’ colony in Beijing.

Liu’s artwork takes a look at the Chinese landscape with a fresh perspective. He explores themes of development and change in contemporary China. His work takes the viewer on a journey through China in the midst of transition, capturing emotion and feeling, while traveling through the Chinese landscape.

His work has been exhibited throughout China. His showings include a solo exhibition in Song Village in Beijing, and “Awkward China-Xianbiao Liu’s Photography Exhibition” at the Shanghai Span Gallery. His documentary work has appeared in the REELCHINA Biennial of Contemporary Chinese Documentary in Shanghai and New York and the Filming East Festival in London in 2008.

Imin Yeh works in the medium of woodcuts, screen prints, and downloadable craft projects to create large-scale installations and interactive artworks. She is currently exhibiting a participatory artist project specially commissioned for ShadowShop at SFMOMA. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and has had recent exhibitions at the AbsoluteZero, a street festival component of 01SJ Biennale, Mission Cultural Center, ProArts Gallery in Oakland, 18 reasons, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, Kearny Street Workshop, the Spare Room Project, and the Chinese Cultural Center.

Recently, she was awarded the Irvine Fellowship at the Sally and Don Lucas Artists Residency Programs, an international multi-disciplinary residency at Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California and was selected for one of ProArts Gallery in Oakland’s 2 x 2 Solos exhibition. She is a recipient of the 2009 Barclay Simpson MFA Award, the San Francisco Foundation’s Murphy and Cadogan Fellowship (2008) and the Yozo Hamaguchi Endowed Scholarship in 2007. She holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an MFA from California College of the Arts. She lives and works in San Francisco and is currently the artist in residence at Mission Grafica at the Mission Cultural Center.

Stella Zhang is a mixed media artist living in San Francisco since 2000. Earning an MFA from Tokyo Art University, she has had 13 solo exhibitions since 1991.