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Small, but Special
Oil on canvas, 2021, 36” × 48” 

I have always wanted to paint large portraits, and now with my perfect objects, I’ve gotten started. I want to create a portrait series featuring the girls holding, carrying, or eating something small but meaningful in life, in culture.

Both of my daughters were born in the U.S., one Nigerian Chinese, one Norwegian Chinese. Over the years, they have traveled between countries and been raised by family and friends who are from everywhere. From language to food and clothes to toys, they have been surrounded by different cultures all the time. The games they play, the food they eat, and the outfits they wear are all a part of who they are.


When I grew up, we always talked a global, integrated world in school; such a world became my ideal. To me, the multicultural life that my daughters live today should be normal. At this point, we should be able to see a person as an individual beyond stereotypes. We also should be able to recognize the beauty of individuality itself, embracing many cultures and the new creations that emerge when they come together.


Of course, people aren’t always so quick to embrace newness. I always get questions about why my children have different last names. Or why they look different. Or why they speak German. Questions that I never thought needed to be answered. Those question, those conflicting worldview have inspired me to want to paint them. I want to show my children and others that even though they are small and may seem insignificant, every thing they do becomes a part of them. Every choice in life adds to their story, and collectively work to define who they are. They are their last names, their skin tones, and the languages they speak, but they are also so much more.

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