The Grief Gallery
GRIEF AND LOSS EXPLORED THROUGH ART AND DESIGN
CURATOR, CHARLENE LAM
She Was Asian American
PART OF NYCXDESIGN
EXTENDED! May – Aug 2022
Launching during NYCxDESIGN, New York City’s annual design festival, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, The Grief Gallery presents She Was Asian American.
This edition of The Grief Gallery features photographs, belongings and stories of Asian American women, including curator Charlene Lam’s Chinese-American mother and other family members, as well as items contributed by members of the AAPI community.
Coming to America
This is my mom, coming to America from Hong Kong at the age of 15. She’s at the airport during a stopover in Canada, looking nervous and very ladylike.
It strikes me profoundly how my mom immigrated to America as a teenager in the early 1960s and became a proud Chinese-American New Yorker, navigating many journeys and balancing many identities.
A Long Journey
If my mother was still alive today, she would be 75 years old. If she was still alive today, living in NYC, I’d be worrying about her being pushed or punched on the street.
That’s the unfortunate reality of many Asian Americans, especially those in certain areas like NYC. Still. This has been the case for the last couple of years. Grief can be multilayered and complex, and it’s odd to have this bittersweet feeling of being grateful that my mom is “safe” in this respect.
My mom at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, NY with the Unisphere in the background.
My mom’s after-school routine: Ironing with her siblings in the family’s Chinese laundry, NYC.
My mom Marilyn next to the family Buick in Queens, NY, 1967.
Items I Found in My Mother’s House
The classic tomato pin cushion, possibly my grandma’s (my pau pau)
Vintage travel bag, possibly belonged to my great aunt (my yee pau)
One of many Hello Kitty-related McDonald’s toys, definitely my mom’s
The Grief Gallery at DesignTO
During Toronto’s annual design festival, The Grief Gallery welcomed visitors to acknowledge personal and collective losses through the contemplation and celebration of objects: the belongings of loved ones lost.
WHAT THE CAMERA CAPTURES
An online exhibition exploring the role of the camera in processing grief and loss during New York City’s annual design festival. Three New York creatives who have lost loved ones share their photography-based projects.
The Grief Gallery at LDF21
Visitors are invited to explore these universal themes through creative work commissioned in memory of loved ones.
The Grief Gallery’s Collection
What objects and belongings did you keep after a loved one died?
Contribute your selected object and stories to The Grief Gallery’s online collection (ongoing).
Why a Grief Gallery?
When my mom died 9 years ago, I was working as an independent curator in London. My pop-up exhibitions showcased the work of designers, makers and artists, under the names Creative Clerkenwell and The Creative Edit.
When it came time to pick out an urn for my mom’s ashes, I commissioned a custom porcelain urn from an East London ceramicist whose work I loved.
That was the start of my work as a Grief Curator. Over the years, I’ve commissioned illustrations, paper art and photoshoots in memory of my mom and others’ loved ones. I’ve presented exhibitions in London and Brooklyn about grief and loss.
Channeling my grief into creating and commissioning work from designers and makers has been an incredibly rewarding and healing experience.
After an extended period of grief and loss on many levels, I invite visitors to explore the universal themes of grief and loss through this creative lens. Out of darkness and pain, we can craft beauty and create meaning.
– Charlene Lam, Curator and Founder, The Grief Gallery
Latest Exhibition: Red Ribbon Dance, Lunar New Year 2023
Join us for The Grief Gallery's monthly grief gathering the last Wednesday of the month.
More grief events from Charlene and The Grief Gallery