Art project narrates student’s Afro-Asian upbringing

Tzi-Ching “Anica” Lin ’13, an art major with a minor in digital media design, created five screen-printed textiles that tell the story of how she discovered her identity. The Department of Art generally purchases a student work each year; this year, they purchased one of Lin’s textiles.

As a first-year student, Tzi-Ching “Anica” Lin ’13 used to get funny looks from her Lake Forest College classmates when she told them she hailed from Swaziland. With parents from Taiwan, she doesn’t look the part. It was then that she began her adult journey to define her identify, an adventure that culminated with her senior thesis, an art project.

Lin spent the spring semester researching her heritage and screen printing five, six-foot tall textiles to help her answer the questions, “Who am I?” and “What culture do I belong to?” These questions first came to her as a child growing up in a Taiwanese household while also trying to assimilate with the Swazi culture.

Now temporarily exhibited in the Sonnenschein Gallery, visitors pass through two rows of her textiles, each resembling a door; the two on the left represent her Asian ancestry, the two on the right, her African.

Visitors are stopped by the fifth and final textile hanging in the back of the exhibit. About two dozen hexagons haphazardly fit together on the fabric. Each one contains part of a screen print from one of the previous four textiles. Collectively, they pull together the story of Lin’s identity.

Through the tiring process of creating her art, everything began to unravel. She learned that “identity is just as hard as screen printing. It’s exhausting trying to find out who you are because identity is fluid and dynamic.”

These deep interpretations are commonplace for Lin, says Associate Professor of Art Eli Robb, her advisor. From as early as his first-year studies class, Lin “impressed me as being someone who had a worldview that many of the other students didn’t have. She always brought a different perspective.”

Each year, the Department of Art selects one student work to purchase. This year, they chose one of the textiles from Lin’s project, the one that visually discusses the Taiwanese-Japanese hybridization that sustained even after Taiwan rid itself of Japanese rule land in the mid-1900s. It’s her favorite.

Although faculty members are still discussing where to display it, Robb said that to his knowledge, they do not yet have any student textile work, so Lin’s contribution will help to “grow collection of student artwork in an interesting way.”

As for the remaining four textiles, Lin plans to ship them to her parents for safe keeping until she returns home.