Skip

Sue-en Wong - exploring stereotypes of Asian women
February 5, 2006 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Sue-en Wong - NSFW flash portfolio (via Internet Weekly)
NY Arts: "... self-portraiture and multiplicity within erotic contexts."
artcritical: "Wong utilizes her favorite subject, herself, to visually critique, satirize, subjugate, and exploit stereotypes of Asian women as passive, pre-pubescent, and sexually objectified."
posted by madamjujujive (43 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I for one was always under the impression that Asian women were pre-pubescent.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 10:25 AM on February 5, 2006


Prior to this post, I had absolutely no opinion (or, indeed, knowledge) of Ms. Wong or her work. Now, I loathe and despise her to the depths of my being, because her stupid Flash site took over my entire display and crashed my browser. Way to go, Sue-en!
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:29 AM on February 5, 2006


Crashed mine too...
posted by zaelic at 10:35 AM on February 5, 2006


I really liked Full Bloom.
posted by clockzero at 10:37 AM on February 5, 2006


This comment: so wrong.
posted by null terminated at 10:37 AM on February 5, 2006


I appreciate that the self-involvement seems to be pretty complete. she lives in Williamsburg, Bklyn, "the true center of the universe!" she's got some interesting things to say in her paintings and the go-go boots in the girl group painting are killer, but her pomposity is a bit of a mood-killer for me. thanks for the link!
posted by carsonb at 10:39 AM on February 5, 2006


didn't crash mine but really, she's mildly talented.

nothing to see here....

move along
posted by j.p. Hung at 10:40 AM on February 5, 2006


It’s interesting to look at these images in this format. They’re unsettling, but they also seem so fragile and delicate (especially the ones under “newer work”). But some of these panels are huge; it’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to stand in a room where they were hanging on the walls.
posted by sophieblue at 10:53 AM on February 5, 2006


I found these images to be unsexy in the strangest, most indescribable way.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:58 AM on February 5, 2006


interestingly creepy -- the "Best of Breed" is especially scary
posted by matteo at 11:07 AM on February 5, 2006


Beautiful work, Su-en. As for crashed browsers, please don't tell me you're still in the IE world. No problems with Netscape.
posted by lometogo at 11:22 AM on February 5, 2006


> visually critique, satirize, subjugate, and exploit stereotypes of Asian women as
> passive, pre-pubescent, and sexually objectified."

My Japanese businessman friends tell me they'd make the point better if Sue Ann was hotter and more pre-pubescent.
posted by jfuller at 11:42 AM on February 5, 2006


MetaFilter: hotter and more pre-pubescent
posted by WhipSmart at 11:56 AM on February 5, 2006


the website just berated me that I had the wrong flash installed. silly me.
posted by jepler at 12:23 PM on February 5, 2006


Do not taunt the website!
posted by Joeforking at 12:49 PM on February 5, 2006


Some of these are hilarious. Others are just odd.

No problems with the Flash here -- FF1.5.
posted by dhartung at 12:52 PM on February 5, 2006


I think her paintings are an interesting counterpoint to this MeFi discussion a while back.

"In the last two years, my work has more specifically addressed the many stereotypes, categorizations and consequent humor within the representation of Asian women in contemporary popular media. The depiction and translation of the Asian woman into fantastic objects within exotic flights of fancy has blurred the lines for many of us."
posted by jayder at 1:00 PM on February 5, 2006


Glad she's so fascinated with herself cause Lord knows she's probably one of the few.
posted by jcking77 at 1:14 PM on February 5, 2006


While I am a sucker for Asian women and "artsy erotica", I did not like this site.
posted by SteveTheRed at 1:47 PM on February 5, 2006


heh... if she were hotter and prepubescent ... nuff said about stereotypes. And on Betty Friedan's deathbed, no less, oy vey.

Here's a picture of the artist, and more commentary on her work. For those who couldn't view her work, here are a few works in nonflash versions 1, 2. 3.

sophieblue, interesting point about the scale. Online, I often don't pay enough attention to that. And jayder, thanks so much for adding such a good related link - I hadn't seen that thread.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:12 PM on February 5, 2006


what is it with artists and their insane desire to conqure people's displays entirely?

As far as the art goes, if her point was some sort of meta-ironic statement about society that makes you think, my boner says she failed.
posted by delmoi at 2:25 PM on February 5, 2006


Those are beautiful and wonderful, and will definitely be a stop on my next gallery trip to NYC! Thanks for posting.
posted by VulcanMike at 3:23 PM on February 5, 2006


Why are so many "artists" these days so completely convinced of their own awesomeness?
posted by nightchrome at 5:19 PM on February 5, 2006


Homely + Narcissistic + Crashed Browser = Repulsive
posted by Devils Slide at 6:51 PM on February 5, 2006


Interesting to read the very personal attacks that Sue-en Wong's work has engendered here.

For those of you who have attacked her in this way, what is it that irritates you so much? I read much of her site, and didn't detect all these loathsome qualities you attribute to her.

(Maybe your disgust is a sign that her work is doing exactly what she intended it to do?)

  • but her pomposity is a bit of a mood-killer for me. thanks for the link! posted by carsonb at 10:39 AM PST on February 5 [!]
  • Why are so many "artists" these days so completely convinced of their own awesomeness? posted by nightchrome at 5:19 PM PST on February 5 [!]
  • Glad she's so fascinated with herself cause Lord knows she's probably one of the few. posted by jcking77 at 1:14 PM PST on February 5 [!]
  • what is it with artists and their insane desire to conqure people's displays entirely? As far as the art goes, if her point was some sort of meta-ironic statement about society that makes you think, my boner says she failed. posted by delmoi at 2:25 PM PST on February 5 [!]
  • Homely + Narcissistic + Crashed Browser = Repulsive posted by Devils Slide at 6:51 PM PST on February 5

posted by jayder at 6:58 PM on February 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


I found the work sexy and disturbing. I'm a half-Chinese American transgendered man with a solid background in gender studies, civil rights activism (esp in gender and race issues) and sociology.

I think she nailed it. Spot on, and she's not a bad actress. Browser-crashing or not (didn't crash mine - Firefox 1.5.01), I recommend giving her another try, only this time, I encourage those of you who have particular objections to the work to try to divorce your feelings from them and really articulate those objections distinctly before condemning the messenger (who seems to have the right vocabulary here).
posted by kalessin at 7:42 PM on February 5, 2006


Er. artist, not actress. I am tired, sorry.
posted by kalessin at 7:43 PM on February 5, 2006


Mine didn't crash, but there was no freaking way to close it. Alt-F4, ESC, nothing. Had to ALT-CTRL-DEL. Glad I wasn't in the middle of anything important.

But it wasn't horrible, just certainly not good enough to bother showing to other people.
posted by Elagabalus at 8:06 PM on February 5, 2006


Well, you know Elagabalus, ymmv, but I thought this was good enough to show to other people. Surely this has at least as much merit as the latest yahoo newsfilter or flash clip, no?

At any rate, I'm with jayder in being amused by the hostility some are directing to her. It doesn't seem like the reaction is just "yuck - I hate her work" as much as it is against her personally. She apparently struck quite a nerve with some.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:14 PM on February 5, 2006


I can't say that I think her work is vey interesting. It's basically a bunch of self-portraits in which the artist explores her own psyche disguised as exploring larger issues.

But that's art for you. Some people are going to like it, others not. I'm sure she'd hate my work too.
posted by moonbiter at 10:50 PM on February 5, 2006


I can't say that I think her work is vey interesting. It's basically a bunch of self-portraits in which the artist explores her own psyche disguised as exploring larger issues.

A general question, since this seems to be one of the themes of this thread...

Do those here that psychoanalyze art do so for all artists? For example, do you walk up to a Rothko or a Pollack and say "What's he trying to say here?" My general outlook on art has always been that you first experience it with your senses and undersand it with your heart.

I'm all for discussing what art means, and what things we like and don't like, but the comment quoted above perplexes me. It's clear that the art does not appeal to moonbiter's taste. But I'd hope that the opinion following isn't meant to show why it doesn't appeal to moonbiter's taste -- did the poster truly look at the art and immediately experience the judgement of the artist?
posted by VulcanMike at 11:13 PM on February 5, 2006


VulcanMike, I probably set the stage for a discussion rather than simply a gut reaction by quoting some critics rather than just putting the link out there. I framed it poorly, I think; I weighed it down.

The reaction might have been different if I just let her stuff speak for itself.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:04 AM on February 6, 2006


Do those here that psychoanalyze art do so for all artists? For example, do you walk up to a Rothko or a Pollack and say "What's he trying to say here?"

Sometimes, yeah. A lot of artists want you to do just that.

My general outlook on art has always been that you first experience it with your senses and undersand it with your heart.

No offense, and that is all well and good, but it is hardly the only way to approach art. I'm not saying it's the wrong way by any means, but simply that it's not the only way.

More to the point, asking folks not to consider what the artist is trying to say and just consider her work based on their sensory experience -- when she is obviously trying to say something with her work -- seems to me a decidedly odd approach. From the artist's statement:
My work explores the complex and mysterious psychological layering we form during childhood and which we retain as adults. ... My drawings recall the powerful, fragile, beautiful and bitter memories of breaking away from obscurity.
Which sounds a lot like:
  1. she's exploring her psyche, and
  2. she's trying to say something with her art.
And there's nothing wrong with that. But I just don't find her series of self-portraits interesting enough for me to even want to think about these issues. Because of that her art doesn't work for me.
posted by moonbiter at 6:26 AM on February 6, 2006


She's much more interesting than Cindy Sherman, even if I could only get three of her images to show up...
posted by klangklangston at 7:42 AM on February 6, 2006


*hugs mjjj*
posted by matteo at 7:56 AM on February 6, 2006


Artwork=not bad.

So, if you cloned yourself, and had sex with your clone, would you be gay or simply masterbating?
posted by Ynoxas at 9:21 AM on February 6, 2006


So, if you cloned yourself, and had sex with your clone, would you be gay or simply masterbating?

My vote is for gay. And highly narcissistic at that. Sounds pretty hot actually.
*clones self*
posted by matkline at 10:53 AM on February 6, 2006


I think that this is really powerful, thought-provoking work and I’m glad to have found out about it. My initial (“gut”) reaction to the Wong site was kind of vague -- something along the lines of “Pretty. Scary. Cerebral. Hmmm.” I wish I’d stuck around the thread yesterday, but I was so surprised by the quick dismissals that started turning up right near the beginning that I decided to go back to Wong's site and then mull it over for a while.

My own response is very mixed (not in the sense of “thumbs up/thumbs down”; more in the sense of feeling really challenged by the work). One thing that struck me immediately about the paintings is that many of them are so pretty. I did not expect this (I’m not sure why I didn’t), and initially it threw me off a bit. (I would love to know what others thought about this.) Even when the figures are shown in strained, uncomfortable-looking poses that make me want to wince and look away (and lots of them are), there will often be a beautiful, soothing background color. Some of the paintings under the “newer work” tab (with miniature figures placed in detailed natural settings) remind me of vintage children’s book illustrations. For me at least this ‘charming’ quality makes the paintings all the more unsettling, since they are also laced with weird elements like multiple versions of the same character in a single panel.

I mean “unsettling” here in a productive way: I think what she is doing is very risky and brave. In fact before I saw the negative responses in the thread I never could have imagined how risky it was. After all there’s a whole tradition – klangklangston refers to it briefly – of experimental self-portraiture that her work is related to. And (sheesh!) once we start calling artists out on so-called “narcissism,” there will be no end to it: read any Walt Whitman lately?

I really appreciate the fact that madamjujujive bothered to put the post together, and also that several people posting yesterday (jayder, kalessin, vulcanmike, etc.) were able (as I was not, but maybe I’ll get better at it someday) to think on their feet during the earlier part of the discussion.
posted by sophieblue at 5:01 PM on February 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Great commentary, sophieblue. Thank you for taking the time to think this through and then come back to share your thoughts. You expressed them so well. One thing that often bums me out is how short-lived these threads can be and I am not a fast thinker! Or I am at work, and the thread has flown by, tumbleweeds the only sign of life. Pity because some things warrant an extended conversation.

I enjoyed hearing your initial reactions to her art so I will offer mine. The first work I saw was Joyride (this can be enlarged). It amused me - all the clone kids lined up, so girly girly. Other than the nakedness, it seemed so familiar and junior-high-ish to me, I have been in lines with giggly girls. I liked the colors, I liked the humor, compelling enough to spur me on. I was thinking her work might be of the low-brow, quasi-anime variety, which I can enjoy.

I was pleased to find the work more substantive. The repetitive figures intrigued me, at one time the same but also very different. The nudity intrigued me. Like you, I was struck by the fairy tale aspect of some of the works like Golden fable and Fairy Tale Blue (detail can be magnified on this one).

The fairy tales, the girl scouts, the go-go dancers and then the aging women in bathing caps at the pool - something oddly familiar to me in all these depictions, some ephemeral glimpse of phases of my life flashing by. Familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

Mostly, the works pleased and amused me, although as you noted, there were unsettling elements that I found a bit jarring or strange. I found some pretty, some peculiar, some fun, some weird. They made me think enough that I went to the trouble to read more about her. I liked the idea of the wallpaper. I am amazed at the colors she got with pencils. When you pointed out the scale, that was another surprise. If she had an exhibit at a gallery near me, I would probably go.

I was surprised to learn that the artist was her own subject, that seemed a rather risky thing to do, because she is not a beauty by prevailing standards. It's a risky thing for ordinary women to put themselves out there in a sexual context. I am an ordinary woman myself, so I know this.

I've put a lot of weird or quirky links on mefi over the years. Many are browser-grabbing bloated flash things (seems to be the favored choice for art & photography portfolios). More than once, I've had reactions ranging from "meh" to "yeck" - but this is the first time that my post seemed to really annoy some people. Curious.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:47 PM on February 6, 2006


made for some damn fine reading, madam jujujive. thanks again.
posted by carsonb at 9:54 PM on February 6, 2006


doh! madamjujujive, apologies.
posted by carsonb at 9:54 PM on February 6, 2006


As the Madam mentions, I have a really hard time appreciating these works (now that I've gone back for a second go with the offsite images) without seeing them in their proper scale. Small monitor problems? Maybe. But I have a feeling that if these were presented with the monumentalism that I think exists behind them, there'd be a different, more immersive feeling that would make it easier to get lost in the identity that she wants to create.
Her technique with the figures reminds me a lot of another artist, though I can't put my finger on who. Mostly the pallette, I think. Oh, I remember— The artist who does the linet notes for John Zorn, and does the creepy Asian girls in trouble stuff. Too bad I can't find a link...
But it's definitely more interesting to see a woman doing it, and doing it as self-portraiture too. And like I said, beats the hell out of Cindy Sherman.
posted by klangklangston at 6:43 AM on February 7, 2006


I almost commented when the thread first hit but I couldn't find a useful way to express myself... I might have skipped a 'hey look at this cool artist' post, but I was interested because I bare some resemblance to this, and it makes me wonder.

I was expecting a criticism of the eroticization of barely pubescent asian girls. I saw a lot of very standard japan porn and/or hentai imagery with a 50's pin-up girl look and American props (Girl Scout uniforms, European fairy tales). Some of the pieces are disturbing, but some are quite erotic.

The attacks are obviously way too strong, but in some sense I can understand the basic sentiment. There seems to be at least some possibility that she is making porn and calling it art, which does make it somewhat pretentious... Or maybe not, is making porn of yourself pretentious? I agree that the presentation creates some of this feeling, I came looking for a certain type of commentary and I got something else.

It was interesting enough for me to be back here typing, but I really don't know what she nailed. I'm probably way too literal minded for the work, but I keep looking for a message that I just can't find.

madamjujujive: At any rate, I'm with jayder in being amused by the hostility some are directing to her. It doesn't seem like the reaction is just "yuck - I hate her work" as much as it is against her personally. She apparently struck quite a nerve with some.

But nobody knows what her personality is really like :)
Certain asian women seem to engender this response. Yoko Ono for one, but I've also seen people react that way to Olivia Chow.
posted by Chuckles at 11:42 PM on February 7, 2006


« Older Google Maps UK   |   Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post