Contemporary Art and the Asian American Experience


[Rosana Han] Good afternoon, good evening. Welcome everyone, my name is Rosana Han Senior Vice President of First Republic and an executive sponsor of APICC, Asian and Pacific Islander Colleague community. APICC provides a platform for our colleagues who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander, and those interested in Asian and Pacific Islander cultures to learn from and support one another. First Republic is excited to have you join us as we honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrated every year in May. A bit of background about the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. It was founded in 1966 and it's recognized and respected as a leading institution devoted exclusively to Asian Art with a collection of more than 18,000 works spanning 6,000 years. First Republic is proud to partner with the Asian Art Museum to celebrate the AAPI Heritage Month. Next, I'm pleased to introduce the two artists for our event today, Afruz Amighi and Abby Chen. Afruz Amighi earned her BA degree in political science at Barnard College at Columbia University, before going on to complete her MFA at New York University, Amighi has exhibited her work in the United States, United Kingdom and West Asia, and has received an NYFA Fellowship in sculpture and the Jameel Prize for Middle Eastern Contemporary Art. In 2018, she held her first museum exhibition at the First Art Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. Her work is currently on view at the Asian Art Museum and the Asia Society and Museum in New York. Abby Chen has served as the Senior Associate Curator and head of community, contemporary art, excuse me, at the Asian Art Museum since 2019. Leading the newly established Contemporary Art Department Chen has spearheaded the Asian Art Museum's 2021 museum transformation with a new emphasis on contemporary art and dedication to digital enhancement. In less than two years, Chen has led nearly a dozen exhibitions and site-specific installations. She's passionate about advocating for artists' autonomy and telling untold stories. Her focus on bringing art from and into marginalized communities has broken barriers imposed on ethnic institutions and neighborhoods. Before we get started a quick housekeeping note. We'll have a Q&A session at the end of the event. To submit a question, please use the Q&A icon at the bottom of your screen. Also, this event is being recorded and the replay will be posted on the First Republic website. With that, let's give a warm welcome to Afruz Amighi and Abby Chen.

[Abby Chen] Thank you everyone and dear friends of the First Republic Bank, welcome to Asian Art Museum online, and I also want to welcome everyone to join Afruz Amighi, such an honor of mine today to introduce her from her studio. So Afruz are you in your studio at the moment or is just a background on the Zoom?

[Afruz Amighi] I am in my studio, although I see my artwork in your background too, so maybe you're in my studio in a different part of my studio and I just don't know it. I am here, welcome everybody, thank you for joining today. I want to just take you on a little tour just so you can see where I make my work. It's going to be very brief, and I apologize in advance, I use light as a material in my work, and if I blind you as I'm taking you through the studio, I'm sorry, it'll be very quick. So, this is in Brooklyn, I'm based in Brooklyn, this is where I have moments of tremendous, joy and frustration. You can sort of see the space is an old warehouse building, like many that have now been converted to art studios. You can sort of see some of the work, which you will see more in depth very soon, but I wanted to just take you quickly into my workshop. I make everything down here. Mostly it's a welding shop and you can sort of see some of the machinery, the steel. I'm very dedicated to making everything, everything that I have, it has my fingerprints on it. I enjoy, and in some ways I think of it as sort of tinkering and inventing when I work, it's mostly just by myself. And so, I'm often making little inventions or rigs to sort of almost create myself as an octopus, so I have more hands than I actually do in order to make sometimes what are fairly large-scale sculptures. So that's the little tour of the shop and-

[Abby] And Afruz, maybe it was so quick, maybe just a little tiny bit on the actual artwork so that we can just take another glimpse at it. We also see your own shadow being casted onto the wall, and I think that your studio is such a magical place. The moment we step in, we got teleported to a different place. So yeah, just maybe just give us another, a little kind of like going around circles, just so that we can see the work and how the shadow get casted on the wall and reflecting through the camera because it was really beautiful just now. Yeah, so some of these chains and how they reflect the light. Yeah, and I would also love to invite our audience online to also imagine that if you're in this place and walking around all of this very kind of like fragile, but actually very strong sculptures and as they reflect the light, reflecting and reflect upon. And we're going to see more images later that are better photographed, they're better photographed and perfect. Thank you, Afruz.

[Afruz] Sure.

[Abby] So for us, many of us are in California and Afruz is in Brooklyn, and it's very lucky that at the Asian Art Museum, that we have this beautiful piece that is behind me and as Afruz's getting situated, we're going to start a PowerPoint presentation so that we can see some of the work, what it looked like outside the studio and got installed in the gallery space. So Afruz can you see the image online right now? Okay, great. So maybe you can go through that with us, where this piece is installed and what are they?

[Afruz] Okay, so this piece, and when I say this piece, I'm referring to the piece on the right side of the screen, it's called My House, My Tomb, it's currently on exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. It's first time being exhibited was in this gallery in Dubai in 2016. And basically, I just want to tell you this, really the story behind this piece, My House, My Tomb was that I was really obsessed with the Taj Mahal, I think many people are. And I have always read about it. And more than just the actual history of its creation, I was really taken with the mythology that has just grown up around the Taj Mahal, there's so many amazing myths. And one of the myths that I was really, really fascinated with was the myth that Shah Jahan, who had commissioned the construction of the Taj Mahal to be the tomb of his wife who had died. One of the myths holds that he had wanted to construct an identical version of the Taj Mahal for himself as a resting place, but rather than make it in white Marvel, it was to be realized in black marble. And according to the myth he was executed before that could actually happen. But there's really no evidence to suggest that that was something that he wanted to do or in any kind of serious way. But once I read that myth, I was gripped by it, and in my imagination. I just kept picturing this black marble Taj Mahal. That was again, according to the myth, supposed to sit across the river from the original white marble Taj. And it's a pretty well-known myth, and what I kept wondering was what does it look like in the minds of people around the world who've heard of this myth? There's so much beauty, I think, in unrealized architecture, I always wonder about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. There's really no archeological data to support that that ever existed, but it's almost so thought of, that it exists anyway. It exists in our imagination as something that absolutely must have happened, and we all picture it in a different way. So, this was how I pictured this love story that would extend beyond death in the form of tombstones, the Black Taj, being the sculpture on the right of your screen and the original Taj being on the left. And in this first exhibition of the piece, I really wanted that sort of after other worldly, afterlife, devotional love to express itself really in the shadows that were cast on the wall behind the piece. So, you can see that they're sort of coming together in an immaterial way.

[Abby] And Afruz you are very meticulous about your material. So maybe can you tell us what material that you use and how you envisioned this piece being displayed at the time with the light?

[Afruz] Yes, the pieces actually made out of, I welded the structure out of steel, very thin strips of steel. And to sort of make the Black Taj I used sort of, it's almost like a mosquito netting, it's a construction screen as well. So, it's like a mesh and it has that sort of transparency that to me, gave it a little bit of a ghostly feel. And then all the structures are suspended by jewelry chain. So, there's black chain holding up the Black Taj and silver chain holding up the white marble Taj. And I had sort of thought in a more literal way when I first made the piece that wouldn't it be appropriate to have them installed across from one another? But sometimes the literal does not translate into the visual, and so it just worked out better to have them actually next to each other, so their shadows through light could sort of merge or almost merge on the wall.

[Abby] And I just want to point out to our audience online, that as you constructed these two pieces, the way that they were hanging, that they were separated, but because of the light, you brought them together, then they're next to each other, and initially they're kind of like separate wide. And if you have been to Taj Mahal in India, that you'll see that actually there's still a pretty big distance between the white Taj Mahal and the proposed site. So, there is a distance between them, but in your work, you honored the factual site, but then at the same time with this imagined, and the piece that with the magic of light, you actually merge them together, or at least just oppose them very closely side by side. Is that very intentional when you do this piece and were you thinking about there are different possibilities, although that this is probably the first rendition of that?

[Afruz] I think what you said is very insightful and I wish I could take credit for having thought of that consciously when I was making the piece. But honestly, I was just sort of thinking, how is this going to work visually? And I think sometimes I have to fight against a literal tendency. I come from a family of teachers and so everyone's very, it sort of has to mean the thing and be the thing that you say. And I think in my work, I try to veer away from that sometimes and just make it not so direct.

[Abby] So this is from another angle that one of the things about your work, that it was very intriguing is that it requires this audience bodily participation and the way that we move around our own body, and then to see the work from different angles and different distance, there's always something different. So, we get to compose a very different experience while we walk around the piece. How were you intending for the audience to appreciate, because there could be so many angles and to look at the work and we're already seeing different kind of like compositions in a way visually?

[Afruz] No, that's really interesting, because I often think about how the sculptures can be sort of the choreographers of the viewers dance and how can the space collaborate, in that process, it's going to change accordingly. In this case, the image you're looking at now is in a much smaller space than the previous images. This was at the museum, the First in Nashville. And so yeah, it always changes how people approach the work or don't approach the work. I think what's important to me is that no matter what the approach is, the person's shadow itself often gets cast into the shadows of the work. And so that's always important to me that you feel that you are sort of in the artwork, that there's like an immersive sense and there's an intimacy between the work and the viewer. It's sometimes a little challenging in certain spaces, things need to be protected and whatever, but to the extent that I can, I like for at least the shadow of the viewers to somehow become enmeshed with the shadows of the piece during the exhibition.

[Abby] The idea of the same work can morph with the change of the space that they're being displayed. In itself, I think we can have a whole discussion about it. So, does all your work possess this quality that they can always adapt, morph, and it's almost like they have a life of its own and they can kind of survive anywhere?

[Afruz] I think that's a question that I will say this, that I think the answer is yes, but I think it's really about me that 10 years ago, I wouldn't have allowed the work to be in certain spaces or to change. I wouldn't have had the flexibility to say, let's see how this transforms in this warehouse or this church or whatever the space is, but I've gotten a little more relaxed about that. And it just takes one experience of seeing how an artwork can actually become a new artwork, depending on the space, and that becomes very exciting actually. So, I think that the work always was flexible, it was me that was inflexible.

[Abby] That's beautifully said, and this is a close up of this Black Taj Mahal, or the material that Afruz just mentioned that using the mesh and they give us an idea on what it looks like when it's close-up. And talking about change and transformation, and also your own, I would say wisdom and confidence with the work and kind of like, let go of the control. So, let's talk about the change and transformation of this piece versus just now the different kind of renditions that we saw out of the same work. So here in Asian Art Museum, all of a sudden this becomes vertical.

[Afruz] Yes, so it not only became vertical, it also was the first time the work was exhibited in a backdrop of not only these grand columns and this grandeur, but the materials are precious. The travertine, it evokes a sense of something, maybe not precious, but something fine, something it's in contrast to the materials that I used for the project, which are industrial materials, you can find them in the Home Depot. Even the chain itself, even if it has like the veneer of glamor to it, it's costume jewelry, it's a cheap, it's not a real precious thing. And I was actually with some trepidation, I thought, is that contrast going to work? And in fact, I think not only the verticality of the work, but the fact that it is in this sort of grand background, I think it's the best version of itself, it almost just seems like it was born there.

[Abby] Yes. Because at the same time, I mean, the previous rendition that we have seen, they're all in a very typical gallery space, white box, people go in expecting to see something that is well lit and everything, but this is actually a very tricky space. And I invite all our audience to come visit Asian Art Museum to see this beautiful piece, and we're going to continue to talk about it. But as we are scrolling through like the close-up, and also the shadow got casted very differently from the previous images. And this is actually a very, I will say, classical architecture, but the architecture itself is very strong and your piece is also very strong. But surprisingly the two kinds of collide into each other and it creates this magical space at this very small corner and then just glowing and shining through. So, when you first saw how this was installed, what was your initial impression?

[Afruz] I was really pleased, and I think it opened the door to the flexibility that we were talking about just earlier of thinking of a work as not in a sort of finite way but thinking of it much more in relation to architecture, and it's a piece about architecture, within a highly architectural space. And I feel like it sort of opens things up and in some ways softens the space with the light.

[Abby] Absolutely, absolutely. And also, again, making a piece about architecture in a very strong architecturally built space is actually a very hard job to accomplish. So, kudos to the piece, and of course, when you were creating it, you're not thinking about Asian Art Museum, but it just worked for us. And I do want to point your attention to the image on the right, as we see going to the side, because this is a blow jar. And so, we have two sides that is open, of course, facing it at the front, we saw this image on the left, but if you do go to the side on which we intentionally want to open that up and allow people to see it, you see the layer, but very meticulously lined up layer of the work. And then I intentionally put this side as the background of my today's Zoom talk, because I do want to show this how straight line, but then how simple, that your work was constructed. And then as we turn to a different angle, how far it has become with the light. So maybe you can talk about your creative process and how can one think about in such a minimal and simplified kind of a term, and then later on becomes such a complex piece.

[Afruz] No, Abby, I'm so glad you sort of are emphasizing that this particular photo on the right, because it is sort of, it's almost Spartan when you look at it from this angle, how simple really it is. And I think that that's why light is, I would say my main material, because I think it activates the sacred. You could cast it upon the most banal anonymous, mass-produced materials, and that's what I like to do, is use materials that are not considered precious to us. We use them to build our cities and we love the cities, but we don't necessarily think of the steel and we don't think of the construction mesh, we don't have an intimate relationship necessarily with these materials that all are from the core of the earth or plants or whatever, and when we act upon them and process them, it's almost like, I feel like I want, or I try to use light to sort of reactivate that this state, a state that they somehow lost during that process perhaps, and to make the atmosphere feel intimate as opposed to anonymous and sort of depersonalized. And yeah, like I said, I think that you could look at the structure and without the light, it wouldn't be the artwork, it would just be the structure. It's almost like the flesh of the piece happens when you turn the light onto it.

[Abby] It's really illuminating, even the moment that you started to see this from far away. And then as you get closer, exactly, like you said, it become very intimate, very warm, and it neutralize the space, it makes this very kind of cold architecture, much more humanized and it became approachable. And then the magic part about that is as we are marveled by this piece to see at the front, and then you go to the side and as an audience for myself, I always love to stay where this background is, is to appreciate, like just how your mind was envisioning this piece from this, almost like a two-dimensional work composed together. All of a sudden, that transformed into this three-dimensional work and it's the same material, same light, and they create such a very different experience for us as viewers. So now that we'll just take a look, the architecture itself and the piece in this short video and feel free to comment on it Afruz.

[Afruz] Yes, so I will say that, to tag onto what you were saying, Abby, about the intimacy is that I think that was something I first felt when I was traveling back to Iran in my 20s and I was visiting a lot of temples and mosques and churches, Armenian churches, and they're mostly dark inside. And you're looking at this splendor in front of you, whether it's tile work or domes or muhanas, and you're just because it's tends to be dark, and then there's a single source of light often, you feel like an intimacy and while experiencing this wonderful art. And that was something that I always thought, how can I try to use light in the way that so many architects did, in religious architecture? That was a huge influence, I will say.

[Abby} Well, you mentioned about first time going back to Iran and being an Iranian American. And then, last time we talked about this at your studio, you said, well, I'm really a Brooklyn artist. Like you mentioned about this kind of multiplicity, all different kind of culture that you join, you draw these inspiration from, but for this particular piece, and we're going to see our other pieces in a second is that I just cannot help, but thinking about the gray heritage of the mathematician, the precision that come out of this culture, from Iranian culture. And so I don't know if that's innate or you particularly want to make a connection of that, but it just feels so strong, that kind of mathematical precision got demonstrated through this piece in particular.

[Afruz] My father is actually a mathematician; he is a high school math teacher. And I, for many projects would ask him, how do I create this angle? because I was horrible at math, but to your point, I'm sorry, that's a totally not what you were getting at, I just couldn't help myself. The precision is something that I think is something that runs through all the work. It's like many artists, I think from many traditions, the repetitive gestures are very soothing, but in terms of like the tradition and the sort of aesthetics that one could call Iranian aesthetics or Persian or Islamic, there's so many overlaps. I think that that's something not just for me, but for most artists that is just indelibly printed somewhere in your psyche. So that when I make and approach a work, it's the farthest thing from my mind, in terms of any kind of conscious attempt to imbue it with something from this culture or from that culture. I think it's something just that is intuitive, unconscious thing.

[Abby] Well, is farthest in your mind yet, you get there in a second, like almost instantly. I mean, just like, look at this artwork in front of us. Again, we talk about that symmetrical precision and especially thinking that you actually made all of this by hand, right?

[Abby] Yes, so this is a piece, that's right, Abby, I made this in 2021 during the pandemic, mainly out of chain and much of it is thin jewelry like chain. But you can also see that there's industrial chain that forms these kind of like mandala structures that I created just loosely on the ground below these sculptures. And it was the second year of the pandemic, and this piece is called Spirit Canopy. And I think the first year many artists kind of fronted like, oh, we're okay, we're used to being alone, we're so alienated, and our life hasn't changed. And then I think that that was a bit premature and perhaps even a bit arrogant because it, of course, the loss, the human loss and all the things that started to really happen, for me, I experienced it every day, walking to and from my studio as this feeling that there were people, spirits, ghosts, people who had passed just hovering like a canopy over the city. And I felt that some of them didn't know that they had passed, and they were sort of lost among the living and that I was sort of lost among them as well. And so, I thought that I needed to visualize this feeling and make these spirits into these black chain sculptures. And again, as we discussed earlier, when you walk among them, your shadow intermingles with their shadows, and it felt like a place for the living to sort of walk amongst the spirit in the spirit world and for those worlds to kind of enmesh as they are right now, because we're living in a moment where death is more proximate to us than it has been for some time. So that's really, what was behind that particular installation that you just saw.

[Abby] You call it Spirit Canopy is almost like a shelter, like a blessing as you mentioned, but then at the same time, as I am looking at them right now, my immediate reaction to that, I mean, instead of, of course, I mean spirituality is definitely part of it, but then also they have this sense of monuments. They have this sense of monument that is also not like what we used to think about monument like giants, but modern monument, like this very fragile, very lightweight, but then at the same time demonstrate this vulnerability, but also eternity. So, my immediate reaction to this was that its kind of like encompassing a lot of vulnerability in this monument like sculptures.

[Afruz] That's really interesting Abby, and I was thinking a lot about there's this and many of you might have seen versions of this anti-monument monument by Rodin, the casting of the Burghers of Calais, that is at the Brooklyn Museum, I think it was in San Francisco at somewhere at some point, maybe in Berkeley. It's a series of human sculptures and Rodin was insistent. They were sort of representing a war occupied part of France, that was occupied by Britain centuries ago. And these burghers were sort the heroes of the town and Rodin said, these have to be shown, not on a pedestal, but on the ground so that they are where people can be face to face with them. And I think it's just interesting what you say Abby, about like, the monuments that we humans make to the dead or to heroes or to whomever, how do we relate to them? Are they on our level with us? That's maybe scary for people, for them to be so proximate, but I certainly, I didn't think of this as a monument, but I did think of it as a way to be face to face with something that is already here, it's already here, even if it's not visible.

[Abby] Yeah, and then also, as we saw the detail of that, they also are very delicate too, because intentionally, I think with your material, you want to make them delicate. So, I think that again is that you make these, well, at least for me personally, these monument-like sculptures, approachable, humanizing it and become intimate, that allow people to be intimate with them. Yeah, just look at this, this so beautiful, but then at the same time fragile and it look very kind of in this delicate way and some of them, particularly the ones, say that this one on the left, it feels like there's a story to it. It's not completely wrapped up at the end that they hang there, it feels like it's very open ended.

[Afruz] Yes, I was trying to create that sense of that some of the spirits sort of going into the ether, some of them being more hanging on to the earthly, not being sure, and then some of them sort of leaving the physical vessel kind of behind, I think that's what you're referring to in the piece, that's kind of evaporating.

[Abby] It's true, and then also the shape of it, has a little bit like this kind of a rocket type of shape, like it's taking them somewhere or it has a trajectory that is outside of the current purview. So, tell us a little bit about this piece, because we saw a little bit when you are showing your studio.

[Afruz] Yeah, so this is sort of what I refer to as a sketch, which is just me, making a work, just to get things in my head outside of my head. And then this like sketch is called No Matter Which Way We Turn. And I started making it back in February, or perhaps it was January, earlier December, it was in the headlines, there was lots of news for just a brief time, maybe a week about these beautiful primeval forests on the border of Belarus and Poland. And it was wintertime, and the trees were covered with icicles and snow and just stunning, stunning imagery. But there were these people who were stuck there on that border area, in the forest, they had been welcomed in by Belarus and told they could come and could go into Poland and Poland wouldn't let them in, and so these people were just trapped. These were migrants, refugees, mostly from Syria and a few other places. And I was just taken with the idea of being in this incredibly beautiful place on this earth, this primeval frosty forest, and yet being stuck and just sort of being trapped. It made me think of a snow globe and just sort of imprisoned in this beautiful place. And that's sort of what was the impetus to start this piece. And then it just sort of transformed, and I started thinking about, you probably see many of the forms are female forms. And I started just thinking about, oftentimes in conflicts, in these battlegrounds, women tend to bear the brunt of a lot of it. But not only that, I was thinking about in these zones, whether it's these primeval forests or people are sort of stuck in this migrationary movement around the earth. But I started thinking about like battle grounds as being, not just terrain, but being a physical body, oftentimes a female body into which politics are played out, ideology is played out. And so, the piece sort of just changed as the world around me changed in the past few months. And you can see that they are sort of trapped in this maze that I've constructed on the floor.

[Abby] And then at the same time you create this kind of like almost like a world of like silver shining branches that very easily, that people might think on the first look that this is a place for fairytale. So, I think that contracts on where you come from and where you're sending them also, I think is fascinating. So, we’re getting closer to the end of our presentation, and there's still a lot of questions I would love to talk about, for example, the material you chose as monochrome and everything else. But I do want to emphasize one thing to our audience as we go through a lot of pieces just now that nothing beats the real experience, you must come to see the piece in real life to feel it, let your body experience the piece, not by listening to us. So, this piece, My House, My Tomb is in Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and Afruz, there's another piece right now in New York, Asia Society, right?

[Afruz] Yes, it unfortunately just was deinstalled.

[Abby] Oh.

[Afruz] Yeah, yes.

[Abby] But in L.A. there's another piece, right?

[Afruz] Yes, there's a piece that I made as a part two of the Spirit Canopy piece that you just saw of chains, and it's called The Guardian and it's at Bridge Gallery in Los Angeles.

[Abby] And then upcoming in late June, you will have another piece at the Birmingham Museum of Art? - [Afruz] Correct, that piece is a tapestry that I wove with chain. It's a tapestry of chain woven into a mesh textile, and it's called The Migration of Stars that is there over the summer.

[Abby] Okay, so we will have our piece up all this summer, and so we welcome all our friends from First Republic Bank to come visit us, and maybe if you go to the south, check out the piece in the Birmingham Museum. Let's go to the questions, our colleagues online. First one, has Ruth Asawa's work impressed you?

[Afruz] I mean, every time her name is even mentioned in my presence in relation to, I think some similarities, I get so happy because I mean, it's hugely flattering, and it's also just interesting to me, in regard to what's behind me now. I didn't know about her work when I was first making these, and when I saw her work, I was very moved because I felt that she had taken a hostile material and created almost like a nest for herself to live in, almost like these warm, organic little nests that are so beautiful. And so, yeah and so I just, I'm very moved by her work. And it's interesting because in these works, which I think there's a relationship there, I see them almost as cages, so I see them in some cases, their spirits and some works that I've made, I've seen them in a more like a cage, a restriction, something... So, I think it's fun for me to think about how she was able to really appropriate a material and turn it into something quite nurturing. Absolutely, yeah.

[Abby] And yeah, and talking about, we are in the AAPI Heritage Months and Ruth Asawa's work, always come up and actually the idea of her practice, a lot of them also have to do with her internment camp experience that she has to fix the wire fences. So, I mean, that's a totally different discussion that we'd love to have some other time, but our colleagues online, are there any other questions, please read it out loud so that we can answer them or, yeah.

[Jorge Hernandez] Yes, thank you. So, we have another question here, which is asking how important is it for you to connect with the viewers of your arts? What have you tried to express and what you have tried to express? I think that's what they meant to say.

[Afruz] I am thinking that it is important that the viewer receives the narrative that I intended? Is that the question, is that important to me? That it's-

[Jorge] Yeah, so no, how important it is for you to connect with the viewers, through your art and for them to understand what you are expressing through your art.

[Afruz] Okay, the connection for the viewer is paramount to me, it's so important to me. I spend so much time like many artists, alone in the studio. And so, the work doesn't feel like it's alive until people have seen it and moved around it, experienced it. That is everything to me, it's everything to me. In terms of whether people get the idea of what I had in my head when I was making it, that doesn't matter to me so much. In some senses, I feel like I'm more interested in what stories they come up with themselves when they see the work that may have nothing to do with the stories in my own head. And that's perhaps the most fascinating part of the experience for me is hearing those narratives.

[Alyssa Ng] Thank you Afruz. Another question we have, and you may have touched on this earlier, but if you could expand on this again, why did you choose to work with these types of materials?

[Afruz] I think the reason is because I didn't go to art school undergrad, I didn't learn how to weld and cast and paint and do the things. And so, when I did go to art school, it was in graduate school, which is not a place where you learn how to make things, you just learn how to talk about the things you make. So, I was deskilled, and so I sort of would go to hardware stores and look for things that maybe, had preexisting holes in them, or they lent themselves to me, that I could sort of use my craft in a way to almost like avoid learning how to weld or learning how to cast. Like, I was looking for things that I could use in my limited sort of skillset at the time. And so, it got me into industrial materials to this day, it's the lows or the Home Depot or the local hardware store, that's where I go mining for materials. I'll look at something like copper tubing, for example. I'm in love with copper tubing, I just think it's so beautiful, I can't really add anything to it, but that's the type of thing that I'm looking for is something, oh, it's just gorgeous, how can I make other people see that? Copper tubing most people think it's already gorgeous, so I'm not going to touch it. But something else, like I could maybe turn the switch on, so that's where that kind of comes from if that makes sense. Sorry, that was a little over.

[Jorge] Thank you for sharing. We have another question that came from the audience, where do you find inspiration? -

[Afruz] Yes, I would say that two biggest sources of inspiration would be architecture and jewelry. The macro and the micro, the precision involved in both the fact that jewelry is often made to catch light and to refract light in a charismatic way. And the architecture, in the way I see architecture is often made as a way to manipulate natural light, whether through archways or windows or stain glass, there's so much that it's channeling light in a much larger scale. So, I think those two things have been, I look at buildings and jewelry all day long, that's what I do for the ideas.

[Alyssa] Thank you Afruz. Here's another question, there's a lot going on in the world right now, does this exude any emotions as you're working on your art and how do you incorporate some of these emotions and feelings into your work?

[Afruz] Yes, that's a great question. I think that there's all these things happening in the world, and there's always all these things happening in the world, always for human history. And we all are trying to find some solace, some kind of respite. And the way I do that is by making these sculptures and drawings. And I think that it's rare that I go into the work with an idea about what's happening in the world and then finish it and that idea is still intact. As you saw with the piece earlier, it started in Belarus and it ended, it just there's so much that gets sort of mixed into the work. And I try to, my mother is an anthropologist and I try to channel that perspective that all this movement of people around the globe, all this technology, whether it's killing technology or expansive mind technology, it's always changing, it's always shifting and yet there's still always going to be the same great themes in life, whether it was 10,000 years ago, or now, despite all these things, there's love, death, loss, those things stay the same. And so, I try to sort of keep that perspective, while I'm making my work, but it does have a therapeutic effect to somehow just have this somatic experience in the midst of the chaos.

[Jorge] Thank you so much for sharing. Another question we received from the audience is online, you are described as an installation artist. Can you comment on this phrase and elaborate?

[Afruz] It's so funny because I think the word installation artist it's like bizarre. Like it's like am I installing an air conditioning unit? It's a very weird, installation or what is it? And so, it's not a very descriptive word, but what I take it to mean is that I'm almost making like a house for you to live in temporarily. So, when you walk in the room or the museum, or wherever, the street, that you are momentarily, sort of encapsulated into an environment that takes you someplace, hopefully takes you someplace that's not where you are now, because I think art for me is about escapism. We live in a very difficult worlds, very hard, and we need to be able to access some other reality, even if it's momentary. And so that to me is what installation art is about, it's about sort of taking that scenic route around the rough parts.

[Alyssa] Thank you, Afruz, and want to be mindful of time, so we'll kick off with one last questions, but also one more comment. So, the audience members just thanking both of you for a fantastic discussion with two artistic minds. So, with that, a final question for you Afruz, how long did it take to make one of the hanging pieces behind you?

[Afruz] Probably a couple like two weeks or something like that. Honestly, I was making them, and I'd keep running out of chain and I'd go to the store, and they'd say, well, this one's discontinued, you know how everything you like gets discontinued, right? Like that's just always the case. And so, then I would start with another type of chain, and so it's hard to give you an exact timeframe, but probably a couple weeks for each one. I build the structure that holds the chain together out of aluminum radiator covers. If you've ever seen those in a hardware store, sort of, I cut them out and shape them into bands to hold the chain together. That actually takes longer than the chain part, I know it doesn't make sense, but yeah, they take a while.

[Alyssa] Very impressive Afruz, so thank you both again, really enjoyed this fantastic conversation. And now we'll turn it over to Abby Chen to help us close.

[Abby] Well, thank you and thank you everyone for joining this session and for being with us today. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the AAPI heritage once with you all. As a reminder, a replay of this session will be available on the First Republic website. And thank you, be well, Happy AAPI Heritage Months and goodbye everyone. And thank you Afruz, thank you so much.

[Afruz]Thank you.

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