Journey to the West

Archival inkjet print

An immense temperate forest poured in sunshine spreads over the triptych: a spectacle landscape seemingly embraces human, here a petite monk. However, all of these context and character evoke darker stories than their original appearance. The artwork was inspired by the famous Wisconsin case of 2004, when a Laotian American with Hmong descent man shot 6 white hunters after he stepped into their private hunting area and then was denigrated racially. The forest is no longer a peaceful and neutral landscape. It is divided between public and private property, which immigrants from tropical countries of mountains and dense jungles are difficult to understand. The monk robe worn by the character, here role played by Howard Henry, makes us think of the hunter’s orange jacket rather than the peaceful religious image from bygone Indochina. The artist named his work Journey to the West, as an analogy between Xuanzang’s travel to the West (India) to acquire the ancient Buddhist scriptures, and the immigration to Western countries of modern time. Both of these ‘journeys to the West’ are narrated and seen by exotic lore, one by a Ming Dynasty novelist, and the other by Western perspective on Asia and Asian Americans. The work is an ambiguity of multiple stories and symbols integrated into one another, reflecting the complexity of American social realities and phenomena from post-Vietnam war period to the present.