by Valery Jung Estabrook
February 12 - March 12, 2020
*Read about the show's title below
*Hometown Hero (Chink): An American Interior, by Valery Jung Estabrook, re-creates a life-size living room sewn by hand, suggestive of the artist’s history growing up in rural southwestern Virginia. The installation includes a custom upholstered recliner embellished with a Confederate Flag motif, and a plush TV emanating country music karaoke sung by the artist.The exhibition challenges the notions of heritage, Southern nationalism and “traditional” American culture, providing a window into the tensions of being a perpetual foreigner in one’s own hometown.
Reflecting on her exhibition title, Estabrook states, “The second part of the title, “Chink,” is a word that is fundamentally linked to my lifelong experience as an Asian American. Yes, it’s offensive—an incredibly painful slur. But that same pain is something that I, unfortunately, think of when I think of home. I include it because I must in order to have an honest discussion about the America that I know.”
About the Artist
Valery Jung Estabrook was born in Plantation, Florida, and grew up on an organic pear farm in rural southwestern Virginia. She holds an MFA in drawing and painting from Brooklyn College and a BA in visual art from Brown University. Her work has been exhibited in major cities both domestically and internationally, including New York, Los Angeles, Lagos, Bilbao, and Melbourne. In 2018 she received the Gold AHL-T&W Foundation Contemporary Visual Art Award, an annual award recognizing artists of Korean heritage in the United States. She currently resides in Albuquerque and teaches experimental art at the University of New Mexico.
As part of a year at the Institute for the Humanities focused on migration and its impact on cultural identity, Valery Jung Estabrook’s Hometown Hero (Chink) explores the artist’s own complicated history growing up Asian American in the South. Estabrook’s hand-constructed domestic interior consists of a custom upholstered recliner, a single-channel video, and a fabric-covered room furnished with other upholstered objects and memorabilia.
Chenille envelops the space, like a bedspread that’s somehow gone awry, conjured up, now with a life of its own. It overloads our senses, too close for any comfort.
The La-Z-Boy draped with a likeness of the Confederate flag embodies the flabbiness of racism in America—so imbedded, pervasive, and casual in America’s history that it has literally become part of the shabby furniture, so familiar we don’t always notice it.
Upholstered beer cans and pillow-like rifles allude to our national past-time of holding our worn-out stories close and our cloying nostalgia closer. They seem to personify America’s sentiment for ideological clutter.
Perhaps, the heartbreak of Estabrook’s work resides in its true embrace of Otherness, what the artist describes as “a state of psychological exile, of in-between, of longing yet never belonging.”
For those of us who are Other, like Estabrook, we sit outside of the living room, peering in. We are vigilant, exhausted, like life-long insomniacs. Because this time maybe things will be different: tears will be mended, we are ready and good enough for company, and we can finally feel at home.
-Amanda Krugliak, Institute for the Humanities Arts Curator
LOOK 101: Seeing Art in an Instagram World
The Art of Valery Jung Estabrook
Monday, Feb 10, noon-1pm
With Valery Jung Estabrook and curator Amanda Krugliak.
Opening Reception & Artist Conversation
Wednesday, Feb 12, 5:30pm
With Valery Jung Estabrook and curator Amanda Krugliak
All events are free and open to the public and held at the Institute for the Humanities, 202 S. Thayer.