Sea of Opportunity is a reflection of the Chen's family history and the journey of their ancestors from China and Korea to the United States of America. They shared their emotional and inspirational story of their parents pursuit of the American dream, to make the best life for their family, and the momentous decision they made to immigrate to the U.S. They are both proud of their heritage and deeply patriotic, grateful for the lives they've been able to earn here in America. I was honored to have the opportunity to create a painting that represented their families journey.
Previously I had completed a similar painting for my Dad, titled Rose's Barn, which also incorporated documents and old photographs of our ancestors' immigration from Italy. In the same way I connected the imagery in Rose's Barn with emotion and sentiment, I was struck by the photographs provided by the Chens for Sea of Opportunity. Through our relatives' strength we exist. Their struggle and effort gave us our lives and the history of it is rooted deep in faith and love. When the Chens told me how much the story of Rose's Barn really spoke to them, I couldn't wait to begin on their painting. It is so inspiring to hear of their courage and strength, and their hopes of a better life for their children, and their children’s children. Their decisions and sacrifice helped shaped the lives of their family for generations to come.
Here are some images with details of the finished painting:
By using image transfers of historical documents including Chinese passports and old photographs, I was able to piece together their story into a meaningful and unique piece of art. There were a few specific items they really wanted to use, a family picture from both sides, their last name "Chen" in the Chinese character, a date of immigration (July 17, 1972), and one of their favorite bible verses (Romans 8: 38 - 39). They also asked that the piece reflect their patriotism and honor for our country with red, white, and blue colors, while keeping a warm palette to match the warm tones in their home decor.
Here are images of my process:
In order to balance the composition, I chose to incorporate additional elements from their passports in between the layers of pigmented beeswax. Not knowing how to read or write Chinese, I had no idea if the Chinese characters I picked made sense or were worth displaying. Coincidentally, my husband has coworkers that speak Chinese, so he brought them a copy of the documents in question. When he told me what they said, I had chills all over. The circular symbol with a star in the middle (pictured between the two families) is the symbol for the Republic of China. The characters seen just to the right going down vertically mean "United States of America," then "Chen," followed by his mother's first name. How in the world could I have picked such a perfect representation out of all the documents I had? It must have been fate because I assure you I do not speak Chinese! :) It really hit home when Mr. Chen told me how he presented the finished painting to his mother and she was able to read her name in Chinese, then explain how she found meaning in the fact that her name appears just beside her late husband because, as she explained, she was his "ears of reason."
I used the bible verse Romans 8:38-39 spaced throughout the bottom portion in the midst of the waves. The horizon represents their journey across the ocean to the United States. The second family photo is of Mrs. Chen's family when she was a young girl. Together Mr. and Mrs. Chen celebrate their families coming together through their marriage. They are extremely proud to teach their children about their Chinese and Korean heritage.
It was an honor for me to create this meaningful painting for the Chen family. I hope it is treasured in their home for years to come!