Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Not all those who wander are lost // All you have to decide is what to [read] with the [blogs] that [are] given to you

So I traveled to New Zealand. Photos are on Instagram, and I microblogged moments like these on Twitter and Facebook. I want / need to go back. [Turns into wailing bearded future Jack from Lost.]

Me in Hobbiton. #nerdtears #nerdblessed

Transitioning from Bag End to year’s end: Here are your top 15 most read posts of 2014:

15. “Passion
13. “Goosebumps
12. “Art Decade
10. “Get Your Kicks
9. “Dig Yourself
7. “State of Mind
5. “He[art]
4. “Forever Golden
3. “Pearl
1. “Of the Horse”                

This year was filled with firsts for me, whether it was jurying an exhibition for the first time, speaking on a panel for the first time, or being in an artist residency for the first timeThese upcoming months I’ll be treading familiar territory—revisiting my first love, traveling even more (I’ll once again be a VIP for Art Basel Hong Kong, which will be held in March instead of May)—but they’ll be no less exciting.

I’ve also started a Tumblr and Pinterest. I don’t quite understand them, but that’s what adventures are all about. Or something.

Thank you, as always. I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things. Happy New Year’s Eve and Day!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Passion, Pt. II

An announcement tied to the previous post:

This winter, I’m going to start creating my own children’s books. It’ll be a return to my roots; as detailed in the essay here, I used to write and illustrate stories all the time as a kid. (For me, this is the ultimate Throwback Thursday!) I have a ton of ideas already, and many of them will be based on my own life and the lives of my friends; you don’t often see a whole lot of people who look like us and do the things we do represented in children’s books. At least, I didn’t. So get excited! And if you know a thing or two about publishing picture books, let me know!

(And on a somewhat related note: Who else is completely against Pixar making Toy Story 4? Those movies were perfect as a trilogy.)


Last night I published my first piece on Medium, “How to write your way into the Ivy League: Tips for crafting a winning college essay, featuring an example that worked.” Although it’s framed by writing advice, the essay itself underlines my lifelong love affair with art and explains one of the most asked-about lines in my bio, so I’ll cross-post the article below, after the jump:

Columbia University.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Press your space face close to mine, love

Jessica Stockholder, Once Upon a Time,
Kavi Gupta Gallery. Expo Chicago 2014.

Happy last day of summer! (To the Southern Hemisphere-rs, happy almost-spring!) But tomorrow isn’t just the autumnal equinox; it’s also David Bowie Day in Chicago. (Seriously.)

Bodysuit by Kansai Yamamoto, worn on tour.
David Bowie Is, Museum of Contemporary Art

Expo Chicago, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, returned for its third year this past weekend, and the internationally touring David Bowie Is exhibition opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago tomorrow. I had the pleasure of previewing both.

The pivotal performance of "Starman" on Top of the Pops.
David Bowie Is, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

As previously implied, I’m a big Bowie fan. And that’s an understatement. Like, I’m not much of a jewelry person, but I wore a Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane necklace every. single. day from 2010-2012 (until I accidentally broke it—pictured further down in this post is the pendant); I have a Goblin King prayer candle (yeah…); etc. And last Friday, I got to be one of the first to see David Bowie Is in the U.S. (Insert weeping / raised hands in exultation emojis here.)

"Life on Mars?" David Bowie Is, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

What impressed me most was the show’s synthesis of art and technology. Before entering, you’re given headphones and a receiver. The exhibit contains 25 “display zones,” each of which has its own audio stream broadcast through transmitters that are mapped to the exhibit’s floor plan. Once you walk towards a different display, the corresponding audio stream activates. A brilliant way to avoid sound bleed, it’s in keeping with Bowie’s own embrace of cutting edge technology.

Yep, brought [part of] my Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane necklace.
David Bowie Is, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

The exhibition is a celebration of creativity, of creation. It’s a fully immersive experience. That’s art.

Knitted catsuit by Kansai Yamamoto, worn on tour.
David Bowie Is, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

David Bowie Is opens at the MCA tomorrow, September 23, and will be up through January 4, 2015. More of my photos from Expo Art Week can be viewed on Instagram.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Art Decade

This week sees the return of Expo Chicago, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, and, by extension, Expo Art Week. (You can read my interviews with Expo’s President and Director, Tony Karman, here, here, and here.) Before they open to the public, I’ll get to preview the fair and other shows, including the highly anticipated David Bowie Is exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago—and when I say “highly anticipated” I mean by me, at the very least (what, I haven’t been counting down for the past year and month and a half I tell you while blasting “The Width of a Circle” on repeat)—so follow along on Instagram and Twitterwhere Ill be sharing my highlights as I did with Art Basel Hong Kong.

Model of Studio Gang Architects' installations for Expo Chicago 2014.
(Image courtesy of Exposition Chicago.)

The fall art season is upon us!

[Edited to add: And congratulations to the Art Institute of Chicago for being voted “#1 Museum in the World” on TripAdvisor!]

Monday, August 25, 2014

From sea to shining sea

All 401 of America’s national parks are free today! (Happy 98th birthday, National Park Service. And hi, fellow August baby.) Among my favorites are Yellowstone, Yosemite, Denali, and Sleeping Bear Dunes.

At world's end. Sleeping Bear Dunes, 2008.

And on to a very different aspect of America: Ferguson, Missouri, has been on my mind and in my heart. In addition to joining the conversation online (on Twitter, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter is a salient one, and, as a springboard, here’s a tweet of mine expressing Asian-American solidarity with the people of Ferguson), fellow Chicagoans can more tangibly help out by participating in a “Youth Sound-Off and Supply Drive: Justice for Mike Brown, Ferguson, and Us All” event this week.

So where does art fall into all of this? We’ve had some fruitful discussions on the role of art before. On the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s blog, Abraham Ritchie writes:

Artworks become objects of emotion, contemplation, and reflection, seen in the songs, poems, and images people are posting to the Web. Some works seem to presage events; others are poignant reminders of how much work we have left to do as citizens and human beings. [...] These artworks do not have the answers to the massive societal problems we face; instead they challenge us to face them, to discuss them, and to work to solve them.

Let’s work together.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A brand of magic

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. Thank you for the childhood memories, including bringing to life one of my favorite characters of all time.

You were magical.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

This is not a pipe

I was featured on yesterday’s RedEye. Thanks, Jessica Galliart! (Here’s the original photo. Photoception.)

Illinois residents: The Art Institute of Chicago is free Thursday evenings! (Gotta love free museum days.)

"This is a sculpture?" -Dad.

And something I learned (or, at least, was happily reminded of) this past week: We are all really weird.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Thursday night. Thank you, thank you, thank you. To the other panelists of “Writing in the Margins”—Sophia Nahli Allison, Olivia Cole, Felicia Holman, and Diana Pando—for being so inspiring. To Tempestt Hazel, Jennifer Patiño Cervantes, and Reuben Westmaas of Sixty Inches From Center for organizing it all. To everyone who came and sat in the audience and took notes throughout the discussion and had brilliant things to say themselves. Also hey thanks childhood hero R.L. Stine for replying to me on Twitter after I told you I name-dropped you during the panel I can die happy and haunt a house now.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Get Your Kicks

Sixty Inches From Center’s “Dialogue: Writing in the Margins” event is this Thursday, 6-8pm. Come! It’ll be my first time on a panel and I’d love to see your beautiful faces in the audience.

Illinois residents: The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is free every Tuesday! Spend a summer evening on their terrace with some live jazz.

Obligatory MCA spiral staircase shot.
And congrats to Germany for winning the World Cup! Fact: Exactly 10 years ago, I was living in Germany. (In high school, thanks to an übernerd program I was in, I got to be a part of a foreign exchange, spending 3 weeks in Hamburg and 1 week frolicking all over the south.)

Atop the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain,
summer 2004.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Writing in the Margins

Image via Sixty Inches From Center.

I’ve been invited to speak on a panel about building platforms for artists who are traditionally marginalized, happening July 17. Thanks, Sixty Inches From Center!

Happy 4th, ‘murricans!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

State of Mind

Manhattan from the plane.

Coming back to New York for Columbia’s reunion weekend just felt like coming back to college from a [really, really] long summer break. NY, forever my home away from home.

Washington Square Park from the World Science Festival.

More photos from my visit on Instagram. (If you scroll a little, you’ll find all my photos from Hong Kong. To read more about that trip, check out the post “Pearl.”)

Alma Mater.

Enjoy your day!

Olaf Breuning, Clouds installation in Central Park.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Columbia University, Commencement 2009.

New York City, I’m coming back to you. Chicago, see you next week. (When I’m not attending my 5-year college reunion, I’ll be checking out as much art as I can. As with my Hong Kong trip, feel free to follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.)

Some light reading:

  • I and Dreams of a City were featured on Hyperallergic. Thanks, Hyper! (Update to what I said in the article: I do have a smartphone now. Important, I know.)

Manhattanhenge tonight!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


You know you’ve just flown in from Hong Kong when it’s 85ºF and it feels nice and cool.

Chicago, I’m home for a week. Then it’s off to New York. Using this time to visit my parents, power through jet lag, and catch up on things from the past couple weeks, e.g., watch the Interstellar trailer ten times in a row, half of which I pretend it’s a sequel to Contact.

Victoria Harbour as seen from Art Basel Hong Kong 2014.
My highlights from the second annual Art Basel Hong Kong, as well as other photos I took throughout my trip, can be viewed here on Instagram.

Rebecca Baumann, Automated Colour Field,
Art Basel Hong Kong 2014.

Hong Kong, of course, was and is so much more than Basel. This is, after all, where my roots lie.

Hong Kong, the city that gives new meaning to the phrase
"urban jungle."

My family’s history mirrors that of Hong Kong: My grandparents were refugees from the Mainland, escaping the Communists in 1949. When their squatter hut burned down in the shantytown fire of 1953, which left over 50,000 people homeless, they resettled in the Shek Kip Mei public housing projects, Hong Kong’s first public housing estate and where my dad and his three younger brothers were born and raised (I wrote about what life was like there in this post). My dad—while still a kid from the hood—got into and graduated from the University of Hong Kong (and later immigrated to the United States and earned a master’s at the University of Chicago). And now the sole American-born child of the Lam clan, with a not-bad track record of her own, receives invitations to return to her motherland every year and attend the world’s premier Modern and contemporary art event as a VIP. Cue “Circle of Life.” (And me holding up this puppy to an enraptured audience of Serengeti animals?)

Spent my last full day in Hong Kong relaxing here, by the sea,
with my grandma. What a long way the Lamily has come.

Whether it’s visiting the Mei Ho House, the last remaining—and newly “revitalized”—building of the Shek Kip Mei slums (I asked my uncles to bring the only photos they have from their childhood for comparisons); or imbibing free bottomless booze at a sweaty party in a parking garage in the industrial district of Chai Wan on the outskirts of the city with friends old and new while dancing to a live Chinese rock band (whose female lead singer, who wore Pink Floyd tights, we gave sips from a bottle of vodka we may or may not have taken from the bar) and, before that, watching dancers follow a set of instructions that included, among many other things, screaming audience members’ names, hiding in boxes, doing a routine to a Rihanna and Beyoncé medley, and fisting themselves in their mouths; or looking at art…

I love this place. 

Have a great week, everyone.

Monday, May 5, 2014

That Time of Year

Bye, Chicago.
Been here a hundred times. Never gets old.

Hi, Hong Kong!

Neither does this.

I’ll be sharing photos on Instagram as well as updating Twitter and Facebook. Follow along!

In the meantime, if you’re around Batavia, Illinois, check out the exhibition I juried at Water Street Studios.

Chicago, I’ll be back in a few weeks. Albeit briefly. Then it’s off to New York!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Forever Golden

Brooks Golden in front of his mural on 16th & Paulina.
(Photo via Brooks' Facebook.)

Rest in peace, Brooks. The Chicago art community truly was and is golden thanks to you.

(More after the jump.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dig Yourself

“This show is creepy.” –apparently said by a troop of Boy Scouts who toured the exhibition I juried.

Photo by Brian DeWolf.

Thanks to everyone who came to the opening reception of Water Street Studios’ spring show Friday night, and thanks to WSS for inviting me to be the guest juror and for so readily welcoming me into their family! I had so much fun.

Photo by Brian DeWolf.

The Beacon-News did a write-up, and I’ve added the link to the Press page.

Photo by Brian DeWolf.

WSS’ site has a few more photos of the exhibition (and here’s a candid of me listening to my introduction before I announced the Honorable Mentions and Best of Show), which runs through June 28—plenty of time to go see it if you missed the opening!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The world is a vampire

As you may recall from earlier posts, I was invited to be the guest juror for Water Street Studios’ spring show, which opens April 11. Sunday was the jury date, and I was told this was the most entries WSS has ever received for an exhibition; 100 artists submitted about 4 works each. (Thanks, artists, for letting me look at your art; and thanks, WSS, for the opportunity!) Here’s one of them:

You can see this piece—and dozens more—in person in a couple weeks, Chicagolanders!

Another free upcoming event:

  • Do this, New Yorkers! 50 professors are giving free lectures in bars throughout the city on April 29. Knowledge and booze. Two of my favorite things. (Speaking of New York, I’ll be there the last weekend of May, and although my schedule is already filling up, if you know of anything a bit under the radar that you think I should check out during that time, tell me!)

Things to keep an eye on:

  • I also got to preview my friend Chyanne Husar’s chiNAgo (how great is that portmanteau?), an ambitious project that explores cultural gains and losses in rapidly developing societies.

And some important announcements about this particular artist on the lam:

  • That awkward moment when the guy in charge of sending your college class quarterly updates about your peers mistakenly includes a four-month-old automated out-of-office message of yours as an update about you. (I’d like to think that at least this little community inadvertently received some free promotion because of it, but instead of just, you know, copying and pasting my vacation responder, he edited / re-typed it and misspelled this site’s URL. …CU ’09 is quite the class.) But if you’re a Columbian who read that note and somehow made it here anyway, welcome / well done.

  • Last but not least: I’ve updated the “About” page with some quotes. (Scroll past the “Best of” images.)

Happy end of Smarch!

Friday, February 14, 2014


“For the poor, the arts are a path to opportunity.” Props to Americans for the Arts’ Robert L. Lynch and actor / director Robert Redford for writing this letter, which was in response to a recent study revealing that federally funded arts programs benefit people of all income levels. (And yesterday, in related news, President Obama finally named his pick for the head of the National Endowment for the Arts.) Art’s importance cannot be stressed enough.

So tell me. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day…

Penny Byrne's Love Is a Battlefield
at the inaugural Art Basel Hong Kong.

Why do you love art? And what do you love most about art?

(P.S. De La Soul is making their entire catalog available for free download today at 11am EST until tomorrow at noon. Edit: And Gargoyles, my second favorite animated TV show as a kidafter Batman: TASis streaming legally on YouTube. Happy Friday!)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Of the Horse

Hello from the other side of 2014! (Me, late to wishing you a happy new year? Never!) First, a couple opportunities and calls for artists and designers:

  • My good friend Caitlin Bergh is starting a company and needs a graffiti-inspired logo that says “CEB.” You can contact her here. [Update: Caitlin has made her decision. Thanks for all the submissions!]

  • As mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been invited to be the guest juror for Water Street Studiosspring show. It’s an open group exhibition, so submit and let me judge your work.

And a couple personal art updates:

Photo by Kim Koin.

  • Last month, I charged into the new year with a series of visiting artist workshops at the Chicago Children’s Museum. Here are some photos from the last session. Thanks, CCM! I had a blast.

  • Also, thanks to the artblog for the plug in a news post! I’ve updated the Press page accordingly.

Fellow Chiberians and winter warriors elsewhere, be warm and well! Everyone else, I grant you permission to gloat.

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