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Virtual Asian-American Art Museum Project

Alexei Taylor, Author

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Battling Stereotypes

You bring a layer of nuance and complexity to your work by donning the Superman costume. It suggests that each one of us is implicated in the culture that we occupy, even if it is in the role of an individual who critiques dominant narratives and tries to tweak them, perhaps, indeed, to play them back against themselves. As I was reading some of your thoughts about this most recent project [An American Knockoff ], something that stood out to me was your comment that “this latest series of paintings is an attempt to ameliorate the outrage of these misconceptions”—some of which you’ve already alluded to—“by depicting myself battling those stereo- types or, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, becoming those very same stereotypes.”2

Right, and one of those stereotypes is that of a martial artist, because that is at the core of a lot of the pieces, particularly the larger paintings, where I offer myself as that Asian American we all know (fig. 3). You know, one who understands the martial arts in some deep, profound, instinctual kind of way, which is entirely a fabrication. So, at the core of a lot of these paintings in the American Knockoff series, I am simply fulfilling the fantasy of the majority culture of being an expert in the martial arts—which helps considerably, you know, to be able to wield weapons or my fists, to control the situation. In real life I wouldn’t be able to do that.
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