Asian American Banana


Dan Lynh Pham, 26

Vietnamese-American

Oklahoma


As humans, it is in our nature to classify things. This systematic categorization happens in society as it does in nature, and from birth. We are taught where we fit in society and which categories we inhabit or are expected to inhabit. My experience growing up in both Asian and American cultures created a conflict of identity as well as a convoluted idea of what cultural values I was expected to personify. Due to my constant struggle with which culture I identified, I am unsure where I existed between the lines of the two cultures. I was born in Vietnam in 1993 and moved to the United States in 1994. My household life was extremely traditional yet my life outside of home was very American. My work in this series, The Banana’s Identity Cookbook, examines my ongoing fascination with my identity, socialization, and how food is the construction of culture. Each piece is a visual diary of observation or story from my childhood and my struggles with identity. These pieces are steeped in humor to cover the true confusions of my identity. Growing up, I always felt “too Asian for Americans” and “too white for Asians.” I believe that food is a culture’s identity. Food is universal, yet unique. Each culture has its own unique cuisine, yet at the same time food has the ability to bring two cultures together. In each piece, I examine my own life with food and I try to contrast each culture’s food preferences. The food presented in my pieces acts as a metaphorical portrait of my own identity. I use food as my main subject because although food can identify a culture, most foods are actually a blend of influences from multiple cultures. Food continues to play a large role in my duel cultural identity. Each of my paintings incorporates culturally iconic foods such as bananas, pho, steak slabs, banh mi, burgers, turkeys, pies, lunar moon cake, etc. I associate each food with a story from my own personal life. Beyond the food metaphor, I sometimes use images of flags as cultural identifiers in much the same way that flags are used in advertisements.