Thursday, December 13, 2007

Typical encounter

SCENE: Contemporary art gallery in downtown Southern city

PLAYERS: white female artist, mid to late 60s, Asian American female professor, late 30s

Artist: (upon learning that Asian American female is affiliated with Southern University) "Oh, what are you studying at Southern U?"

Professor: "Well, actually I teach there."

Artist: "OH! In that case as someone interested in education let me teach you something about silver jewelry"

[long exposition about merits of 99.9% silver jewelry vs. sterling silver ensues, as well as insistence on holding various pieces that artist has made and the artist talking about Mitsubishi having a patent on the alloy for the 99.9% silver jewelry]

Artist: "Let me find the piece with the Japanese face. Are you Japanese?"

Professor: (taking internal deep breath and big sigh) "No"

Artist: "Oh, are you Chinese?"

Professor: "I'm Chinese American"

Artist: "Oh, that's OK. I have Chinese friends too. They're nice."


Why does this always happen? Can't I go into an art gallery without being confronted with this weird Orientalism? And why didn't I have the chutzpah to say back to this woman, "Oh great! I have white friends, and they're nice too. Don't you love white people? Their traditions are so rich, and I love the way a fork feels in my hand. Such a lovely people!"

1 comment:

baby221 said...

LOL I wish you'd said that too! This happens to me all the time -- I mean I generally just brush it off because it's too weird to do anything with at the moment. But that line about forks is priceless. I think I'm gonna start using that. :)