Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How We Move Mountains

Get excited, because I am: The multi-talented and ever joyful [and joyfully irreverent] Emily Calvo—who was one of the artists in LEXICON (if the title of this blog post sounds familiar to you, here’s why)—and I are collaborating on an upcoming poetry and art event! No details yet (we had our first brainstorming meeting today, and it was glorious), but it’ll probably be this spring. Putting out feelers: If you’re a visual artist who also does poetry / a poet who also does visual art, let us know! (And thank you, Emily, for asking me to collaborate with you on this!)

Another one of my many photos from my parents' and my Silk Road Tour in
Western China
. (Taken while walking to Crescent Lake after our camel ride
on Echoing Sand Dune / Mingsha Shan, Dunhuang, Gansu.)

And a follow-up to Friday: Here’s me at Line Dot Editions, over an hour after the Holiday Show reception was slated to end, with a gift they surprised me with for helping judge the art submitted to said show. Amazing job to all the artists and everyone at the gallery (Line Dot folks, looking forward to more hangouts in the back room with the impressive bar), and thank you to all who came! Of note: I showed up towards the end of the opening (as I do) and it was still packed, even with the rain. (A friend on how she found me: “I saw someone short with long hair.”)

Friday, November 17, 2017

On the Road

As you know, I helped judge the art submissions for Line Dot Editions’ Holiday Show, and it opens tonight (Friday), 6-9pm. Come! It’s free, all the exhibiting artists are Chicago- and/or Midwest-based, and all their work is fantastic.

When we spent an afternoon with a nomadic family on the Sangke Grassland,
Xiahe, Gansu, China.

And, as you can tell from… the fact that you’re reading this, I’m back(!) from Western China where my parents and I went on a Silk Road Tour. Actually, we returned a month and a half ago, and since then, I’ve been sharing a photo a day, every day, from our trip (which was only two weeks long—I took a lot of photos, OK?), and I’ve finally finished posting them. (Well, for now.) View ‘em (and their [sometimes sappy] accompanying captions and stories) all on Instagram and this Tumblr tag. (They’re also on Twitter and Facebook.) To the land of my ancestors, ‘til next time.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

[Your Guide to Overcoming] Expo FOMO

Before I jump into this week’s festivities, here. Enjoy this photo of me being awkward at the Nasty Women Chicago Art Show in Stan Mansion. I sold my piece in it! Thank you to fellow artist Allen Vandever for buying my Safety Lights Are for Dudes drawing—100% of the sale goes to Planned Parenthood—and thank you to everyone who came!

The view from the rooftop of Ace Hotel Chicago
before attending an artist talk with Jaume Plensa.

And now: Welcome to Expo Art Week! As I said in this post, with Expo Chicago and the second edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, it’s one of my favorite times of the year to be an artist in my city. Below are my picks for what to see.

Here’s a quick video I took at the private preview of Luftwerk and NRDC’s collaboration White Wanderer: A Climate Change Soundtrack, featuring the sounds of melting icebergs. It’s art that’s so relevant right now. The installation’s located at 2 N. Riverside Plaza through October 1 and will also be at Expo Chicago.

The fall art gallery season has begun, and my highlight is Chris Silva’s mesmerizing solo exhibition at Linda Warren Projects. Open Source is on view through November 4.

The Chicago Biennial pop-up exhibition SOM: Engineering x [Art + Architecture], presented by Mana Contemporary Chicago and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, is on view next to Ace Hotel through January 7, 2018.

Expo Chicago’s off-site exhibition Palais de Tokyo: Singing Stones, at the DuSable Museum of African American History, is on view through October 29.

Standing, wine in hand, on a precarious wooden structure
at the VIP opening night.

Tonight I’ll be at the VIP Preview and Vernissage for Expo Chicago at Navy Pier (which will include a Soundsuit performance by Nick Cave and Jeanne Gang) and a VIP preview of a Biennial Special Project at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

In anticipation of Expo (which opens to the public tomorrow), read my previous interviews with its affable Director and President, Tony Karman, from when we sat down and chatted before and after the fair’s inaugural and sophomore editions. I particularly love his career advice to young artists and arts professionals in our 2013 conversation.

I’m bummed that I’ll be missing the opening of the Biennial’s main exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center (I’ll be on a plane* during the preview), but—luckily—the Biennial runs through January 7, 2018, so there’ll be plenty of time to take it all in once I’m back.

*Tomorrow morning I’m flying out to Western China for a Silk Road Tour! The trip isn’t art-related so I probably (we’ll see) won’t be using a VPN like I did 5 years ago during my Beijing and Shanghai adventure (which is how I wrote “Midwesterner in the Middle Kingdom” back then), so I’ll likely be MIA online until the end of the month. See you then!

Until then, don’t forget: I have a call for artists!

And lastly: I’ve been featured on The T in STEM! Thank you!


[Pre-flight (and sleep-deprived) edits/updates because I want to share my happiness from last night with you:

Loved the VIP Preview of the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s L’air pour l’air performance by SO-IL and Ana Prvački at Garfield Park Conservatory so much. From their artist statement, it’s a call for “change through beauty.” Thank you for letting me experience this!

And THE BEST PART OF EXPO CHICAGO’S VERNISSAGE! I was entranced by [and whooped along with] Nick Cave’s Up Right Chicago Performance in Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom. I’ve uploaded a million temporary (they’ll disappear around midnight, literally) videos to my Instagram stories (in the app, tap on my avatar).

Here’s a schedule of future performances and programming.]

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Open Call for Artists: Line Dot Editions’ Holiday Show

Midwest artists! As announced in the previous post, I’ve been invited to be the guest judge for Line Dot Editions’ holiday show. The open call for artists has officially gone live today, and you can view all the guidelines on their News page and on Vertical Gallery’s blog. The submission deadline is September 30, the opening reception is November 17, and the exhibition closes December 31. Apply! (Thank you again to Vertical founder Patrick Hull for asking me to be a part of the selection committee!)

The brand new Washington/Wabash L stop.

Another upcoming art event I’m involved in: My own work will be exhibited in the Nasty Women Chicago Art Show, which is this Friday, September 8, 5:30-10:30pm, at Stan Mansion. 100% of sales will benefit Planned Parenthood. Hope to see you there!

Also, I’ve begun sharing the dreams and hopes kids drew and wrote during my Visiting Artist Workshops at the Chicago Children’s Museum in January 2014 at @dreamsofacity! Get your daily dose of joy these next few months and follow along!

Friday, September 1, 2017


I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be the guest judge for Line Dot Editions’ holiday show! The open call for artists (and more details) will go out next week, with all submissions to be received by October 1. The opening reception’s Friday, November 17, and the exhibition will run through the end of December. Thank you, Patrick Hull of Vertical Gallery!

As summer's end draws near, Flashback Friday to the summer solstice.

(I’ve updated the Exhibitions page, which has become a bit of a CV of sorts.)

Speaking of exhibitions, a reminder: I’ll have artwork in the Nasty Women Chicago Art Show next Friday, September 8, 5:30-10:30pm, at Stan Mansion. 100% of funds raised will be donated to Planned Parenthood Illinois Action.

While we’re on the subject of the Resistance: Thank you, Gloria “Gloe” Talamantes and Tempestt Hazel / Sixty Inches From Center for re-sharing my video with On The Real Film! Love you ladies.

While we’re on the subject of… film? Some of the things I said in the above episode? A PSA: Go see Birth of the Dragon; it stars my cousin Philip Ng as Bruce Lee! My parents went last weekend and were so amazed that he’s in a film that’s being shown in the US. Support Asians and Asian Americans in Hollywood movies, woo!

Tintype of me by Jen Jansen Photography. (Taken at this
.) Also, I didn't realize this was a mirror image
until I noticed the placement of my moles.

Hope you all had a splendid August. My highlights, both personal and public, included: the solar eclipse, my birthday (thank you so much to everyone who came—my heart [and stomach] was so full—and thank you for all the birthday wishes), and the Floating Museum, which has since left the Chicago River (the linked photo) and is currently being installed at Navy Pier.

And with that: Happy September! With Expo Chicago and the Chicago Architecture Biennial coming up, it’s one of my favorite times of the year to be an artist in this city. Stay tuned for my previews!

(Art you can check out right now: I CAN DO THAT artist and birthday twin Nathan “Bam” Stanton is painting a mural at Harris Theater in Millennium Park! He’ll be there until 6pm today if you’d like to catch him in action.)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Stop! Gimme a beat

I’m proud to announce that my artwork will be exhibited in the Nasty Women Chicago Art Show! 100% of proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood. The fundraiser’s Friday, September 8, 5:30-10:30pm, at Stan Mansion. Thank you, Nasty Women Chicago! Resist and persist!

At the Chicago Picasso 50th Anniversary celebration
with Su Zhou (one of the artists in LEXICON) yesterday.

It was so good coming across a Galerie F (my neighborhood* gallery) pop-up and running into owner Billy Craven yesterday! What a pleasant surprise. For the non- Logan Square folks, check it out if you’re in the Loop; the shop’s in Block 37.


A comment left on @dreamsofacity.

Thank you so much for your kind words, Frank!

Happy Leo season, friends. A certain special day is approaching (cough, August 17, cough), and I’d love for you to celebrate with me if you’re around. Until then: Here, have a photo of me on the Iron Throne.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


I checked my P.O. box yesterday and now I have a total of 365 Chicago postcards! For those of you who aren’t familiar: In 2008 in New York and since 2012 in Chicago, I’ve been leaving thousands of handmade, pre-stamped, self-addressed postcards all over the city, each with the prompt “Tell me one thing you dream of doing before you die. Use this card as your canvas,” as well as a different code on the corner.

I record where I leave each one, so when a card returns to me, I match up the code with the location and am able to tell where each card was found. I created a map of Manhattan that way, almost 10 years ago, and am gradually piecing together one of my home city, Chicago.

It’s a labor of love and a love letter made of many love letters.

And since February (when a portion of these postcards were selected by the City to be exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of their Year of Public Art initiative), I’ve been sharing 1 Chicago dream a day, every day, at @dreamsofacity on Instagram. So this means I’ll have been posting these dreams for at least a year once I’m done. Follow along! (And to those who have already been following, thank you so much!)

I love my city so much.
Wandered into an Art Deco building, snuck to a top floor,
went into a stairwell, and saw this, shhh.

(The most recent response to all this? “Keep making the world a more magical place!” Thank you, Destry!)

On Thursday I attended an event called The Makery Experience in a secret garden in Pilsen. It was a celebration of artisans and craftspeople and also confirmation that I’m a time traveler (see below). Thanks for inviting me, Prisoner Wine Co.!

Tintypes of me and Adrienne Glover (one of the artists in LEXICON)
by Jen Jansen Photography.

Local stuff for you to check out:

  • My mentor and dear friend Robin Rios opened an Etsy shop!

  • Apparently you can get free [Chicago style, of course] hot dogs this week at these locations. (I serendipitously scored a free one on National Hot Dog Day at one of my favorite carts by agreeing to add ketchup to mine. I actually hesitated because it felt so wrong.)
At Kim & Carlo's Hot Dog Stand, Museum Campus.

And as for my dreams? A couple weeks ago I got called a Renaissance Woman. One has now come true.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

To Boldly Go

New Frontiers, the graphic novel anthology I have a story and artwork in, is officially going to press! Thank you again to the editors Jeff Yang and Keith Chow for the opportunity and for all your hard work putting this together!

L.A. friends: There will be a special event on July 15 at the Japanese American National Museum, where they’ll be formally unveiling the book! The Asian American ComiCon’s Summit on Art, Action, and the Future, 12-5pm.

Here. Have a Chicago photo as I transition to Chicago
things. (TBT to 2 weeks ago / my parents' anniversary.)

Sunday’s Dreams of a City postcard? The sender’s dream came true! Read her story here. More mapped Chicago dreams—posted daily—can be viewed here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Second to None

As a follow-up to the previous two posts: LEXICON didn’t win the Chicago Reader’s #BestOfChi (it’s the runner-up), but I still think it’s the best. Thank you to everyone who voted!

A photo my mom took of a visitor to LEXICON.

(Also, it’s the runner-up to a show that’s actually on a national museum tour where Chicago was merely one of many stops. An independent exhibition being second to a huge organization like that is no small feat!)

The back of Tuesday’s daily Dreams of a City postcard is, on a visual level, another one of my favorites.

Postcard #2365 back: 24 July 2013, NW. corner of Fullerton at Ashland.

To read the front and for more dreams, visit @dreamsofacity, where I’ve been sharing one mapped Chicago dream a day, every day (Monday’s was moving too, especially since I’ve been thinking a lot about the passage of time lately), and to learn more about my ongoing large-scale interactive art project, visit this page.

Happy summer! (Even to you readers in the Southern Hemisphere, because yes.) From the solstice on Wednesday:

Best summer solstice ever.

(Pictured above was the view from a nerd alumni event—I was the only Columbia University person and think I represented you well, CU kids!—on the rooftop of a Streeterville high rise. Much love to everyone I met!)

Update: At this gallery opening, someone I always thought was cool told me they admire me. You all make my art life worthwhile!

Monday, June 12, 2017


Sneak peek and first time drawing myself since I was a kid (although I painted myself a couple times like 10 years ago?): Here’s a quick sketch that’s part of my story in the upcoming graphic novel anthology New Frontiers.

Also adding this to my Scribble Sunday series
[even though it's Monday].

(Thank you to Asian American Millennials Unite—an organization that “spotlights the political power of the new generation of Asian America”—for all the related love on Twitter and Instagram! Apparently I’m “one of [their] favorite artists who’s not afraid to use [my] medium to push AAPI issues forward.” Shucks.)

When folks still ask you about a piece you wrote 5(!) years ago:

Thank you, Babu!

(P.S. The post is “Midwesterner in the Middle Kingdom // The Outsider” and just so happens to be what I based my New Frontiers story on!)

A reminder: If you haven’t yet, vote LEXICON for “Best Gallery Exhibit” in the Chicago Reader’s #BestOfChi! Voting ends today at 12pm CST! (Refer to the previous post if you have any difficulties viewing the ballot.) Thank you in advance, thank you to those who’ve already voted and spread the word, and thank you for nominating LEXICON in the first place!

Like, 1/8 of LEXICON.

And speaking of shows, a recommendation: Takashi Murakami’s The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is now open at the Museum of Contemporary Art! (Pretty much all of Chicago was at the exhibit on the first public day and I ran into and met so many people and I loved it.) It’ll be up all summer, and admission is free for Illinois residents every Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


LEXICON made it to the final round of the Chicago Reader’s #BestOfChi voting, thanks to you! Now, vote for LEXICON (the artist statement-less interactive show I created and curated featuring 47 talented artists from diverse backgrounds in the 10,000 sq. ft. exhibition space of the Zhou B Art Center) for “Best Gallery Exhibit”! (Click the Arts & Culture category.) Thank you! [Update: Voting has now closed!]

(Important tip: I’m unable to view the ballot in Chrome so I assume many of you might come across the same problem; if that happens, try your phone instead, or, if you have Windows 10, use Microsoft Edge on desktop. Update: Basically, I think you need to disable ad blockers for the Reader.)

Hope you all had a great Memorial Day Weekend! (Mine consisted of this loveliness, this life-long tradition, spotting this helpful reminder in the form of street art, and—of course—this.)

Chicago house music blasted in the background
of this photo. Lurie Garden, Millennium Park.

Happy Dragon Boat Festival, everyone!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Can you tell me how to get

Artists, take charge of your own historical narrative! Submit your ephemera to the Chicago Artist Files at the Harold Washington Library; refer to the last paragraph on this page for details. I started a file of my own at Sixty Inches From Center’s Chicago Archives + Artists Festival this past Sunday, which was, well, amazing. (Here’s another [completely unrelated] reason why Sunday ruled.)


As I’d mentioned in this caption, although I was born in Chicago, I’m actually ESL; Cantonese is technically my first language and I picked up Toishanese listening to my maternal grandpa. I taught myself English as a baby by watching Sesame Street on WTTW, the local PBS station. PBS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, one of about a dozen agencies (along with the NEA and NEH) that will be eliminated under the proposed Trump Budget. These programs literally change lives. In my case, they start them. #Resist.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

New Frontiers

An original story of mine (including artwork by me) will be published in New Frontiers, an original graphic novel anthology inspired by George Takei by the team behind the Asian American superhero anthology Secret Identities! Thank you so much to the editors, Jeff Yang and Keith Chow (founder of The Nerds of Color)!

Image courtesy of SIUniverse.

(Fun fact: When I was 16, I founded a free English tutoring program for immigrant youth in Chicago’s Chinatown called New Horizons. So I’d like to think this is fate.)

The back of Saturday’s daily Dreams of a City postcard has always been, on a purely visual level, one of my favorites. Thanks to Mary Iwanicki who helped leave this one. To read what was written on the front, visit @DreamsOfACity, where I’ve been sharing one mapped dream a day, every day. [Keep] follow[ing] along!

Postcard 1009 back: January 2013, Komoda (2559 W. Chicago).

And a reminder: If you haven’t done so already, I’d love it if you could take a couple minutes to nominate LEXICON for “Best Gallery Exhibit” in the Chicago Reader’s annual #BestOfChi poll! (More details and tips about the process in the previous post.) Thank you! [Update: Thanks to you, LEXICON is a finalist! Now, time to vote!]

Thursday, April 27, 2017


The Chicago Reader’s annual Best of Chicago poll is open for nominations, and it would mean the world to me if you nominate LEXICON (the interactive art show I created and curated featuring 47 artists in the 10,000 sq. ft. exhibition space of the Zhou B Art Center) for the “Best Gallery Exhibit”! Thank you! (This is the first round of voting; [hopefully] I’ll be bugging yall again in May for the final round.)

Xavier Johnson, me, and Michael Zhou the moment after
I sold Arturo Mazon's Oct on My Head to fellow artist Xavier
[in an amazing Pusheen hat]. LEXICON was Art's 1st show
ever! Photo by Gerard Rodriguez.

If you need to refresh your memory, check out the LEXICON tag for related blog posts!

(Also, a few people have told me they had trouble viewing the ballot depending on their desktop browser. Mobile worked for me, as did Microsoft Edge [aww yeah Windows 10 default] for desktop. Let me know if you need help!)

More words of gratitude: Thank you to everyone who visited The Subject Is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities at the Chicago Cultural Center, where my interactive installation was on display! The exhibition (thank you again to the museum and to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events!) may be over, but I’m still sharing one postcard a day, every day, at @DreamsOfACity. Keep following along!

(Speaking of my project, Dreams of a City was mentioned as one of the highlights in this article about the exhibition. Thank you, Loyola Phoenix and Marc Rosales II! There are some great visitor quotes in the piece too.)

In other Chicago art news: 150 Media Stream, a new media art installation of 89 LED panels inside 150 N. Riverside, is now open to the public! The first rotating artist is Jason Salavon.

In case you’re wondering about my recent Hong Kong trip, I’ll be writing a post about it soon / “soon”! In the meantime, check out my photos at @artistsonthelam on Instagram.

Me at Art Basel Hong Kong. Iván Navarro,
Impenetrable Room, Paul Kasmin Gallery.
Photo by my mom.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Southern Song

I’m traveling to Hong Kong today! (Thank you to Art Basel, Art Central, and Asia Contemporary Art Show for inviting me to your VIP programs again!) You know what to do; follow along on Instagram and Twitter for live updates and photos.

Some of my phone photos from last year's Hong Kong trip.

As you also know, I’m usually on my own for my annual HK trip. This year, however, my mom’s tagging along so she can finally record an album there! She’s an amazing Cantonese opera singer, and I’m so happy she’ll finally be able to share one of her myriad gifts with the world. I’m also happy because this means double the food portions I usually order. Watch out, HK; we Lam ladies are gonna’ come eat all your dim sum.

My mom at the storefront her family owned
and lived behind and above
in Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

To tide you over ‘til I’m back: Part of my ongoing large-scale interactive mapping project is currently on view at the Chicago Cultural Center, selected by the City of Chicago as part of the “Year of Public Art” initiative for 2017. People back home, check out the exhibition if you haven’t yet and get the chance. And everyone everywhere, follow my Dreams of a City account, where I’m sharing one Chicago postcard a day, every day. (The last time I counted, there were 356. After my art-making event during the Open House a couple weeks ago, though? Expect even more!)

Monday, February 27, 2017

City of [Ours]

Me at The Subject Is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center Open House (check out whose name is next to [/ repping Ward] 32):

Thank you to everyone who came on Saturday (your support means everything to me), to everyone who participated in my art-making event (I ran out of postcards within the hour! so amazing), and, of course, to the museum and to the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for selecting me and giving me this opportunity! And to the fellow exhibiting artists who came by my table, it was so wonderful meeting you! What a kind, creative, and overall incredible group to be a part of.

If you missed it, the show runs ‘til April 9, and you can (and should, to be honest) follow my ongoing interactive public art / mapping project at @DreamsOfACity, where I’m sharing one mapped Chicago postcard a day, every day. (As of this writing, there are 356.)

And, via my Twitter, here are some Oscars thoughts.
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