Mailinh Hồ, 23
Although issues surrounding the portrayal of Asians and Asian-Americans in the media has come a long way since the 1920s, there continues to be a lack of representation and a lingering problem with the tropes of the “Model Minority” and “Forever Foreigner.” The Vietnamese diaspora has resulted in an influx of first generation Vietnamese-Americans who face the struggle of maintaining their cultural heritage while seeking acceptance as a fellow American.
Mailinh Ho’s work explores the complexities of contemporary identity through playful iconography and self-portraiture. Through self-portraiture she encourages the viewer to examine the contemporary dynamics of race and gender as a result of diaspora through her experience as a first generation Vietnamese-American. Her work confronts the topic of modern-day microaggressions with a cheeky attitude, forcefully rejecting stereotypical notions of Asian Americans while reconciling her Vietnamese heritage and American upbringing.
This specific piece is a response to the age old question, "Where are you from?" It's a question that looms over every new interaction, and once it arises I simply respond with, "I'm from Florida, Orlando to be exact." It's the place I consider home- it only makes sense since I lived 17 years of my life there. Usually this response is deemed insufficient and followed by, "But where were you born?" To this I reply, "Buffalo, New York." Usually they get the hint and change it up and ask instead what my cultural heritage/ethnic background is but it can't shake the grimy feeling of being seen as forever foreign. No matter the garb, no matter how fluent I am, no matter my birthplace, I am made to feel as if I don't belong.