Monday, July 15, 2019

Drawing Commissions 2019

It’s been a while, but I’m bringing it back (and this time it’ll be ongoing and not just for the holidays): I’m open for drawing commissions! Request custom drawings of anything you want!

Misaa, 2018.

In past years, portraits have been quite popular. As examples, here’s one I did for a friend from college of her, her husband, and their two Siberian cats; above is one of a requester’s dog-niece.

Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder, 2017.

Of course, I’m not limited to portraits, and feel free to get creative with your requests (which allows me to get creative too)! For instance, fellow artist, friend, and former mentor Robin Rios asked me to create a cartoon of her sculptures interacting, and this is what I came up with.

Safety Lights Are for Dudes, 2016.
(Sold at the Nasty Women Chicago Art Show with 100% of the sale going to
Planned Parenthood, 2017.)

My rates:

Cartoon: $20
Combination cartoon and realistic: $40
Realistic: $60

(Shipping and handling fees vary and will be calculated afterwards.)

All are graphite drawings on 70lb / 115gsm Acid-Free Canson Drawing Paper. For cartoons, an ink pen may be used as well. Each piece is signed on the back, and it will be mailed to you in a protective plastic sleeve.

Night Nurse, Scruffy-Looking Nerf Herder, Force, and AKA, 2015.
(All sold at LEXICON, 2016.)

Sound good? Good! Here’s how to proceed:

  1. Email me your request, specifying the style you want. If your idea involves a real person, pet, etc., include good quality photos for reference.
  2. I [hopefully] approve your request, and you pay via PayPal. (I also accept Chase QuickPay and Venmo.)
  3. I create the drawing and mail it to you.

Gossamer series, 2008.

Looking forward to creating unique artworks for you!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

And I’m here to remind you

Reunion 2019, Columbia University in the City of New York.

As the Starlight Celebration went on into the night and all milestone reunion years (every 5 years all the way up to ’49) danced under the benevolent gaze of Alma Mater, right after I took the photo above and descended from Low I found myself sitting on the Steps with my good friend Andrew (who, until reunion, I last hung out with 7 years ago in Beijing) and had a deep conversation about—literally—our mortality; love; loss; longing to leave a legacy and pass on our stories; how we’ve reached an age where we’ve made certain decisions we can’t ever come back from and must make peace with that; Andrew saying the question he asks himself now is “What do I want to get out of life?”, which I know will stick with me; how we don’t want certain feelings to ever fade away… all the good stuff, and it was so Columbia, and I loved it, and I love my friends I made here so much. He and I talked about how we don’t remember too much about what we learned in class (well for me I did internalize everything I learned freshman year, which is when I knocked out most of the Core, but after that… yeah sorry Columbia), but to us this place has always been and always will be about the people.

Honey, I'm home.
Columbia University, my 10-year reunion.

At my 5-year reunion it felt like I never left, like I had just come back from a long summer break. At 10 years though, enough time has passed to make it seem very, very strange. It’s all so familiar, yet—as I told Andrew—it feels dreamlike. Columbia, post-graduation, has always had a dreamlike quality to me, but when I wandered around campus that night I felt like a ghost. Like I was looking at everything through incorrect prescription contact lenses (which is highly probable). I lived here in another lifetime, something I did notice years back.

Who else from Columbia remembers the school-only
Facebook group from 2005 called "I had a crush on
Alexander Hamilton" because I did when I was 16.

And the next morning my throat was sore from scream-singing (while intermittently raising my wine cup) along to “You Oughta Know” which was inexplicably the last song the live band played.

"In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen."
Columbia Reunion during the Starlight Celebration portion of the night.

(But then there’s something so perfect about a crowd of dressed up Columbia alumni singing Alanis Morissette at the tops of our lungs at midnight.)

Using Riverside Church as a guide, spot Columbia, turquoise copper roof
Lego block oasis. Goodbye again. Miss all you nerds already.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


First, two updates:

I’ve been invited to speak on a panel about Asian representation in entertainment and media at Facebook Chicago for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! Save the date; the event is Wednesday, May 22, 4-6pm, at 191 N. Upper Wacker Drive. [5/15 edit: Whoops, was just told this isnt open to the public.]

I got interviewed by Voyage Chicago! (Half a year ago, but the article was recently published, heh.) Take a look!

My story on Voyage Chicago.

Two reminders:

I have an upcoming art exhibit at the Bessie Coleman Branch of the Chicago Public Library in Woodlawn throughout May, also in celebration of AAPIHM!

Chicago Public Library's news about my AAPIHM exhibit 2019.

Midwest artists, today is your final day to submit to Line Dot’s 3rd Annual Juried Art Show! I’m one of the guest judges; I’d love to see your work. All the details for the open call are here.

And just because:

Here’s a lovely new mural by Ouizi in an alley in West Town, just in time for spring.

Mural by Ouizi, West Town, Chicago, 2019.

(This post has been quite the unceremonious non-transition from my previous posts which I wrote during the beginning of my annual Hong Kong trip for Art Basel, I know.)

Happy almost May!

Monday, March 25, 2019

How to make the most of Hong Kong’s Art Gallery Night // or, Art Basel Hasn't Even Started Yet and My Legs Are Already Tired

Guys, I did it. I managed to attend 14 opening receptions within 2 hours* at Hong Kong’s Art Gallery Night tonight. And I was handed champagne at almost each one. And my last two stops required me hiking up a mountain (not really but it was uphill and that’s hard as a Midwesterner OK). *(Might I suggest that not every Hong Kong gallery host their event from 6-8pm on the same night?)

Leonardo Drew at Pearl Lam Galleries (no relation).
Hong Kong's Art Gallery Night 2019.

My expert-level (half-kidding… but seriously) route that I recommend to anyone who’d want to see the highest concentration of high quality art within a limited amount a time (and, suffice it to say, the pictured pieces and linked exhibitions are my highlights / picks if you can only view a few):

If you’re taking public transit, exit at the Central MTR station. Arrive a little early and walk into the luxurious Landmark, where there’s always an art installation suspended from the ceiling. Once it’s time, start your gallery-hopping next door at the Pedder Building, which I’ve been visiting every single year I’ve been doing my annual Art Basel Hong Kong trip. Take the elevator to the top floor and work your way down via the stairs. This year’s Hong Kong Art Week / Hong Kong Arts Month, you’ll hit Leonardo Drew at Pearl Lam Galleries (no relation) on the sixth floor; What’s Up/Hong Kong on the fifth; Yeh Shih-Chiang: Edge of Sea and Sky at Hanart TZ Gallery (I always love coming here for Chinese art) and Edwin Wurm at Lehmann Maupin on the fourth; Overheated at Massimo De Carlo, Yoan Capote at Ben Brown Fine Arts, and Heimo Zobernig at Simon Lee Gallery on the third.

Vibing out to music at Yeh Shih-Chiang's Edge of Sea and Sky
at Hanart TZ Gallery. Hong Kong's Art Gallery Night 2019.

Then, walk west on Queen’s Road and go to H Queen’s, which was a new destination last year. Again, take the elevator to the highest floor that has art and work your way down. This year, you’ll hit Zhang Yanzi: Seclusion at Ora-Ora on the seventeenth floor, Louise Bourgeois at Hauser & Wirth on the sixteenth and fifteenth, Mary Course at Pace Gallery on the twelfth, Unlock at Tang Contemporary Art on the tenth, Zhou Yangming: Continuum at Pearl Lam Galleries (yes, they have a second location here) on the ninth, and Miwa Komatsu: Divine Spirit at Whitestone Gallery on the eighth and seventh.

Stomping down seventeen flights in a stairwell can get tedious (as well as dizzying); good thing there’s a “site-specific public art experience” throughout the stairwell called Exit Strategies. (Fun fact: When I was 18 at Columbia, I built a 12-ft.-tall site-specific sculpture in what I thought was an abandoned stairwell and the grad students filed a complaint about it/me to OSHA. (Yes, that’s what that line refers to in my “About” page.) Thank goodness for my professor Lisi Raskin who had my back. Eventually, I destroyed my sculpture as part of my project. The transience of art! My piece was called Asymptote and remains one of the craziest and greatest things I’ve done, to be honest.)

HOCA Foundation | KAWS: Along the Way at PMQ.
Hong Kong's Art Gallery Night 2019.

For the third and final leg, walk west and up all those steps that plague I mean characterize Sheung Wan to get to the Hollywood Road gallery area. I went for KAWS: Along the Way presented by HOCA Foundation at PMQ and Okuda: Digital Zoo at La Galerie – Paris 1839.

Okuda: Digital Zoo at La Galerie - Paris 1839.
Hong Kong's Art Gallery Night 2019.

Of course, there are galleries you’ll be skipping, but you can’t see everything in two hours. (Before H Queen’s existed, after the Pedder Building, I’d also visit the galleries around Ice House Street as well as attempt to see White Cube and others on Connaught Road.)

Note that I’m not factoring in any time for socializing—I purely viewed the art—so your mileage may vary. (I did, however, run into the HKwalls folks at the Okuda show.)

Lastly, this goes without saying for me (since I’m always in sneakers) but might not be as obvious to everyone else: Wear comfortable shoes.

And that’s the first night of Hong Kong Art Week! See you at the fairs!

Friday, March 22, 2019

“Life’s too short for sad art” // A preview of HKwalls 2019

(As you know from my previous post, I’m in Hong Kong for Art Basel right now. Hello from the true city that never sleeps! Upon my arrival last night, I had a late dinner with my paternal grandma and uncles at nearly 10pm on a weeknight in a food court in Mongkok, Kowloon, and it was still packed. I love it.)

I write this with multiple cocktails* in my system. *(Went with my old favorite: Old-Fashioneds. Thank you to HKwalls for treating us!) Today I had the pleasure of attending the HKwalls Media Preview, in which I, well, previewed the 2019 edition of Hong Kong’s annual street art festival, which has impressively expanded this year to include a multi-floor alternative art space called The Clubhouse—renovated from a traditional tong lau, which had previously fallen into disrepair, to be an inclusive venue where people can view art, make art, and hang out—as well as many other public interactive (also my favorite) art activities that will take place this week; got a [hot and humid (not that I’m complaining considering the brutal winter we had in the Midwest)] guided tour of all the art to come throughout the Wan Chai neighborhood, where the festival will be held this year; and, alongside the participating street artists, was treated to a sit-down family-style dinner (which none of us anticipated, going, “I didn’t know we were getting a full meal…”) and drinks at an Italian American restaurant (said one of the artists to me, “It’s not like there’s any pizza or Italians in Chicago…”).

Waiting on the 3rd floor of The Clubhouse before the HKwalls 2019
Media Preview. Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

In The Clubhouse, we watched artist talks and demonstrations, including a hands-on encaustic painting workshop by Elizabeth Briel, who uses local beeswax. You all know how much I love data and mapping, so Elizabeth’s mention of a project of hers caught my attention; she has encaustic pieces of photos she took all over Hong Kong, each a square foot in size, and she’s selling each one for the same price of real estate per sq. ft. in the corresponding location where she took each picture.

Elizabeth Briel's encaustic workshop, HKwalls 2019 Media Preview
at The Clubhouse. Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

(She herself lives in a 150 sq. ft. apartment in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon. Honestly, though? Despite the size—and despite my admitted initial reaction of “That’s crazy!”—it sounds nice; it’s a rounded building, and her outer wall is all windows. To compare, my dad and his brothers grew up in the famed Shek Kip Mei public housing projects, where multiple families resided in 120 sq. ft. concrete units, with the only window in each one looking out onto a narrow corridor. Like I said in that classic blog post I just linked to, however, they were happy. And now I truly digress.)

Erig Ng, HKwalls 2019 Media Preview at The Clubhouse.
Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Another talk by artist Eric Ng involved a fun and wholesome little skit featuring “Mr. Bean.” In keeping with all that’s good and pure, around the corner outside, San Francisco-based street artist fnnch was spray-painting one of his Honey Bears. “Honey bears make me happy,” he explained. “Life’s too short for sad art.”

fnnch, HKwalls 2019. Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Over 30 street artists will be creating colorful murals for the festival this week. One piece that’s already been completed is INSA’s “gif-iti” mural; if you download his app and view his piece through it, the image moves!

INSA, HKwalls 2019. Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Towards the end of the dinner and drinks, since I happen to be wearing my Logan Square Blue Line CTA station t-shirt and carrying my Block Club Chicago Founding Member tote bag (hey, being Chicagoan and proud is a thing, man), fnnch caught me by surprise when he turned to me and went, “So, Chicago!” and proceeded to tell me he knows Logan and chatted with me about the Chicago places where he’s painted murals. (It’s always wild and beautiful and wild to talk about ­­­the familiarity of home out of context halfway around the world.) I learned something today; apparently, San Francisco doesn’t really have a street art scene (particularly of the under-40 generation), which is good news for fnnch and, like, his four peers so they’ve pretty much monopolized that area. (And that was a tangent about being an artist in San Francisco.)

HKwalls officially begins tomorrow (March 23), with an opening party at The Clubhouse (6 Steward Rd.). Check their website for a mural map, a schedule of events such as workshops, and more. Everything is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Happy first day of spring! I’m going on my annual Hong Kong trip for Art Basel today! (Thank you, as always, to Basel, Art Central, Asia Contemporary Art Show, et al. for the VIP program invitations!) Feel free to follow along on Twitter and Instagram for live updates and photos of my travels. Anticipate a blog post or two as well. (One of my highlights from last year? A studio visit with self-taught artist Fung Ming Chip.)

To celebrate the season: The dyed green Chicago River in 2018.

Until I’m back on April 3, you can: Apply to Line Dot Editions’ 3rd Annual Open Call Group Show (I’m one of the guest judges); look forward to my upcoming exhibit at the Chicago Public Library during May in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month; and vote in the Chicago mayoral runoff election before (like I did) or on April 2. Be a part of history!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


First, two bits of upcoming art exhibition news (one of them a call for artists):

I am proud to announce that, for the second year in a row, I’ve been chosen to exhibit my work at the Chicago Public Library during May to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! I’ll be showing at the Coleman Branch, serving the Woodlawn, Hyde Park, and Greater Grand Crossing neighborhoods (last year, I was at West Chicago in Austin). Thank you, CPL!

The call: I’ve been invited to be one of the guest judges for Line Dot Editions’ 3rd Annual Open Call Group Show! It’s always a pleasure to be on their jury. Chicago and Midwest artists, apply! You can view all the details here. (Important dates: The application deadline is April 30, and the opening reception is June 21.)

At the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei.
(My parents and I traveled to Taiwan for the first time in November.)

An art review of sorts: A few weeks ago I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to check out the new Laurie Simmons exhibit, Big Camera/Little Camera, without knowing anything about Simmons beforehand. And. Well. Here’s my two-tweet criticism of her and the exhibit. (My friend—and former Columbia classmate!—Trilbe’s responses were more eloquently put than mine.) And here’s when I learned that Simmons’ daughter is Lena Dunham, and suddenly it all made sense…

Speaking of propping up Asian women instead of whatever mess is going on in the fourth floor of the MCA and how important it is for us to tell our own stories: A couple weeks ago I went to a discussion and signing by Chinese American activist and journalist Helen Zia for her new book, Last Boat Out of Shanghai, and what a night it was. Read my Twitter thread about it (and our history, and the things we inherit, and hope) here.

Political nerdery: Holy shit, Lori Lightfoot! I voted for her in our municipal elections, which were already historic since there were 14 mayoral candidates and no clear frontrunner, and she ended up in first place! I truly thought Bill Daley was going to win. She and Toni Preckwinkle will face off in runoffs so either way, Chicago will get its first black woman mayor! And if Lightfoot wins, she’ll also be our first openly gay mayor! This is so exciting. Fellow Chicagoans, be a part of history and be sure to vote again on April 2. (Or earlier, like I will, since I’ll be out of the country.)

Social media: Yesterday I realized I have over 2,000 followers on Instagram! Thank you! (Another social media-related feat? When my childhood hero Michelle Kwan liked a tweet of mine. My literally mouth dropped.)

My top liked Instagram photos of 2018, thanks to you.

Lastly: I know posts have been sparse here lately so this is, believe it or not, the first blog post of 2019. Oops. As a year in review, here’s my Twitter thread of my highlights and favorite blog posts of 2018. Wishing you all a [very belated] very happy new year and Year of the Pig!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

“I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide” [hopefully]

Specifically, a #BlueWave.

(Yes, the title’s another Gandalf quote, although this wording is from The Two Towers film instead of the book. Consider it a callback to this Fellowship of the Ring one—my favorite—from my first post- Election 2016 blog post, which I’ve been revisiting a lot lately.)

I’d like to apologize yet again for the lack of posts here. But I’m back. Only to be gone again, oops (more on that later). And, my fellow Americans, I’m telling you:

#VoteThemOut #SwingLeft #TakeBackTheHouse #Resist

Vote! I voted early a couple weeks ago, like I did in ‘16. (For the Chicagoans reading this, the folks working at the Loop Super Site were super friendly and helpful.) These midterm elections are crucial. My 10-year-old self at the Illinois State Capitol is roaring through the fabric of space and time to encourage you. And, in addition to my favorite quote linked above, I’ve been reminding myself of these words of wisdom from Angela Davis, which I’d included in my 2016 review, “Hope.”

And to serve as even more motivation, here’s another relic from 2016: my episode of Transition to Power, a political documentary by On the Real Film about the presidential election through artists’ eyes.

As for what I’ve been up to (and—more importantly—all the art I’ve experienced and seen, from my highlights and picks to my… strong opinions [and exposés] on other things) between now and the previous post (from July, I know!), I’m afraid you’ll have to scroll through my social media: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. My photo captions tend to be long by those formats’ standards but serve as micro blog posts in a way; read them!

And what I meant by leaving again: I’m flying out of the country today; after a pit stop in Hong Kong to visit my dad’s side of the family, I’ll be traveling in Taiwan for the first time! (It’s hard to believe that the Silk Road in Western China was a year ago.) See you later, America; make it so that I return to good news and a better you!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


I was one of the guest judges for Line Dot Editions’ open call summer group show, Hot Fun in the Summertime (this was the voting process), and it opens July 19! Come! It’s free, and all the exhibiting artists are based in Chicago and/or the Midwest; support local artists!

This photo cracks me and my parents up. Read why--and
learn more about this young monk who guided us through
Labrang Monastery, Xiahe, Gansu, China--here.

My Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month exhibit at the West Chicago Avenue Branch of the Chicago Public Library may be over, but 1) you can view those [and more of my] Silk Road photos online here and here; and 2) you should still go and explore Austin and see that the neighborhood is more than how it’s portrayed in the news.

(On the subject of my Silk Road photos, this traveling monk knew the monk who guided my parents and me at Labrang Monastery and found and commented on my photo of him yesterday! What a world.)

Spotted in my neighborhood yesterday: "The only ICE we like" by
CHema Skandal. (Also, spot the Dreams of a City postcard.)

Apologies for the lack of posts these past couple months; for the first time in 7 years, I moved! (3 blocks away from my old apartment, but still.) And this was the first thing I did in my new place. A quick round-up of some other stuff I’ve been up to that I haven’t mentioned yet: being Chinese; becoming a founding member of Block Club Chicago (support local journalism!); reminding (or educating), finding inspiration and strength; inadvertently bringing joy to a personal source of inspiration and strength; going on interactive art tours; pouring one out for Quenchers Saloon, the venue where I publicly shared, for the first time, some of the postcards from Dreams of a City; looking back at the Zeitgeist of 20 years ago through a kid’s eyes; [re-]telling my family’s refugee story; having sweet encounters at Target; and live-tweeting Westworld and getting in my feelings.

Happy summer! Read Outside Season has begun.

Monday, May 7, 2018

On Air

I got interviewed by WBEZ about my exhibit at the Chicago Public Library branch in the Austin neighborhood for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! The interview will air this morning. Tune in! Thank you to Carrie Shepherd from WBEZ, and thank you to Keeshana Clark and everyone at the Austin branch, as well as Molly Kelly and CPL in general! Read more about the display here.

Me in front of my AAPIHM exhibit at the West Chicago
Avenue Branch of Chicago Public Library in Austin.
Photo by WBEZ's Carrie Shepherd.

And as announced in the previous post, Line Dot Editions has invited me to guest judge an open call group art show of theirs again! Here are the submission details for Hot Fun in the Summertime. Midwest artists, apply!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

It’s Gonna Be

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (and what a gorgeous day it is in Chicago)! I’ve installed my AAPIHM exhibit at the West Chicago Avenue Branch of Chicago Public Library in the neighborhood of Austin! It’s a handful of photos I took on my phone while traveling along the Silk Road in Western China, and it’ll be on view throughout May. (Fitting that my own Journey to the West is chronicled in a westside community.) More information about the exhibit celebrating APAHM can be found here, and you can view the rest of the photos here and on Instagram. P.S. The security guard there’s a sweetheart and kept coming over to look at my art while I was installing and pointed out the places he wants to travel to (hint: the places in my photos.)

Chicago Public Library's news about my AAPIHM exhibit.

Another way to celebrate: Be sure to check out my ongoing series, ABC in HK, in which I interview Chinese Americans currently living in Hong Kong and amplify their stories, struggles, triumphs, and dreams. (And if you’d like to participate, email me! The call for voices is here.)

More news, including a couple announcements (one of which is an opportunity):

Midwest artists: Line Dot Editions is having another open call group show, Hot Fun in the Summertime, and I’ll be guest judging on their panel again! The application deadline will be June 2, the opening reception will be July 19, and the exhibition will close August 16. I’ll update once the gallery officially posts the call; stay tuned!

Thanks for asking me to shoot my portrait, Miguel Guzman! And for the pizza. And for putting up with how awkward I am in front of a camera. (I suffer from the affliction Resting Serious Face, the lesser known relative of Resting Bitch Face.)

I received a notification that someone left a comment in a 7-year-old post. Love it. Throwback to the early days of Artists on the Lam, when I was [more of] a shit-stirrer [than I am now] (ah, youth): “A Call for a Global Art History / It’s not all about you, dude”.

My “Kites in Uptown” photo is one of the winners for Block Club Chicago’s postcard contest! (Not bad considering I only posted about my nomination on social media once and not at all on this blog since I was traveling in Hong Kong at the time.) Thank you to all who voted and thank you, Block Club Chi! Some of those who backed their Kickstarter will be getting my photo in the mail.

My paternal grandma
in the Hong Kong Railway Museum in Tai Po.

Lastly: I went on my annual Hong Kong trip last month as a VIP at Art Basel, Art Central, and Asia Contemporary Art Show (and had a free spur-of-the-moment portrait taken there), and you can look through my photos (be sure to read the captions) here and here. My previous blog post chronicles my visit with self-taught artist Fung Ming Chip in his studio, one of many art highlights. Of course, my HK trips are never always about art; they’re about family. And snacks. And dogs. Lots and lots of adorable dogs. (I mean, why else would one travel?)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wordplay: An Artist Studio Visit with Fung Ming Chip

A week ago while I was in Hong Kong, I spent a lovely morning visiting the Sai Ying Pun studio of self-taught artist Fung Ming Chip, whose work has been included in collections at the Met and LACMA.

Fung Ming Chip in his studio (also his and Yim Tom's
home) showing me and fellow Chicagoan Inez Suen
his calligraphic artwork.

Thank you again, Ming and Yim, for welcoming me into your home, for your hospitality (tea, food, hugs), and—Ming—for waking up hours before you normally do to meet me (he usually gets up after noon—hashtag artist life).

Ming deconstructs Chinese calligraphy and pushes the medium in directions I never thought possible. With all the layers and depth, his pieces are “unphotographable,” and that need to see them in person is kind of the distinction between East vs. West; there’s an intimacy with traditional Chinese art in general, and before you open a scroll you don’t know what you’re about to find—you’re in for a surprise each time.

Also… Ming doesn’t have a website or anything, so you really do have to see his work in person!

Ming is also a photographer and showed us Polaroids he took back in the day.

If you’d like to reach Ming, get in touch with Yim Tom. She’s the wonderful woman I met at the Art Basel VIP Private View—in the Collectors Lounge someone called my name and it was a Chicago friend, Inez Suen, and Inez was there with Yim—and was the one from whom I learned “about how British colonial rule deliberately suppressed the development of culture and national identity in Hong Kong” (one of my “truth bombs” in my caption for this photo of me on Instagram and Facebook). And she and Ming are married, and they’re the perfect pair.

Monday, April 9, 2018

ABC in HK // Nathan Tseng

ABC in HK is a new mini interview series amplifying the voices of Chinese Americans who’ve returned to their roots / motherland, whether it’s for work or any other reason. These are their stories, their struggles, their triumphs, their dreams.

If you’re a Chinese American (either an ABC—a.k.a. American-born Chinese—or Chinese who grew up in the US) currently living in Hong Kong and would like to participate, see the call here.

I’m back (from—no surprise here—Hong Kong), so this project is too. For its return, meet Nathan Tseng, and ABC who actually spent his adolescent years in Hong Kong before moving as an adult. His description of an “identity crisis”—feeling more American when in Hong Kong, feeling more Chinese when in America—is something many can relate to.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Tseng

Name: Nathan Tseng

Title & Occupation: Web Developer at

Where you were born and grew up: Cupertino, CA

When you moved to Hong Kong: I actually first moved to Hong Kong at the age of 10 in 1994 and went to high school here. I moved back to the US for college and then came back again in 2011 for work.

Why you moved to Hong Kong: First time was with family. The second time I came back was myself wanting to try out the job market here. I was also in a long distance relationship with my now wife.

Tell me a little about yourself! Basically, what’s your story?

My parents are originally from Hong Kong, but they both immigrated to North America in their teens: my mom to Canada following the riots of 1966 and my dad to the US for college. When I was born, my dad was working in Cupertino and I had a typical suburban upbringing during my formative years. Although Cupertino is considered a majority Asian suburb these days, it was mostly white back then and that’s how I remembered it. Since my parents had spent so many years in North America, I actually spoke mostly English at home unlike many other Asian families we knew.

When I was 10, my grandpa convinced my dad to move back to Hong Kong to help out with the family business. Moving at that age, especially to another country, was difficult. Although I had travelled to Hong Kong a number of times, living here was a different story. Making new friends was difficult, and so was getting used to the densely populated city life. My parents sent me to international school and I can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been had I gone to a local Cantonese speaking school. On the other hand, because of that, I think it took me a long time to understand local Hong Kong culture, which I eventually came to love and appreciate.

I went back to the States for college, first UT Austin for undergraduate and then University of Washington where I did a Masters in Urban Planning. I didn’t quite follow my father’s footsteps; I guess I was still trying to discover what my interests were after those years living in Hong Kong. I did experience some reverse culture shock moving back to the US. For example, football is very big in Texas and I didn’t quite understand the hype since it wasn’t something I kept up with living in HK. I joined some Asian American groups, but also realized that my life experiences differed from theirs; many people I met hadn’t even been to Asia before!

In 2011, I was living in Seattle and while I enjoyed it there very much, I wanted to try the job market in Hong Kong because of my interest in urban development and planning. Unfortunately, being a planner meant I needed native Chinese language skills and sadly my written Chinese skills weren’t up to par. At that time, I decided to stay here though, since I started seeing my now wife, whom I married last Christmas. I ended up doing a few odd jobs, including part time English tutoring, before I ended up getting a job at Spacious, a local online real estate platform, as a software developer. Funny how I ultimately ended up following my dad’s footsteps in a way!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


It’s spring, and you know what that means: I’m traveling to Hong Kong today! (Thank you, once again, to Art Basel, Asia Contemporary Art Show, et al. for the VIP program invites!) If you aren’t following me on Instagram and Twitter already, now’s the time to start; I’ll be sharing live updates and photos throughout my trip. (Also, SUE the T. rex—everyone’s favorite large murderbird—follows me [and occasionally replies to completely non-science-related thoughts of mine], a fact that brings me great joy every time I suddenly remember it. So yes, be like SUE.) (Granted, the likes of Ai Weiwei and Beck follow me too, but SUE’s the biggest celebrity here to my former [and current] nerdy self. Well, literally. But still.)

Some of my phone* photos from last year.
*(Except for the one of me, which my mom took.)
I love how my images are mostly of women,
even Guanyin (the Goddess of Mercy).

I’ll be back on April 4. ‘Til then: Read my new (launched it last week!) ongoing interview series, ABC in HK, amplifying the voices—and the stories, struggles, triumphs, and dreams—of Chinese Americans who’ve returned to their roots, here and on Medium (and view the call for voices, which I’ve added a couple updates to, here); and look forward to my upcoming exhibit at the Chicago Public Library during May in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

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