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January 22, 2014

I See Boat People :: Paintings & Other Works

When I learned of my brother Jinil's untimely death this past November, I started folding boats. As I was folding them, I could hear the sound of my daughter's voice in my mind, singing the song, Falling Slowly, which has lyrics that go like this "Take this sinking boat and point it home we've still got time ..."

Jenny Doh Boat People

I was also thinking about the hymn that my large extended family sang in the airport in Seoul, Korea back in 1974 as we made a large circle, holding hands, as my mom, dad, brothers Jim and Jinil, and I were ready to board a plane that would take us from Seoul to Los Angeles.

The verses of the hymn when loosely translated go something like this:

The grace of my Lord God is deeper than the ocean,
Anchors away, and travel toward the middle of the sea.
Leave the shore, take your boat over the waves,
Sail through the ocean of grace, my Lord Jesus.

This hymn. When I think about it, when I sing it, brings me to tears and brings me to my knees.

Though we were boarding a plane, it felt similar to boarding a boat as we would indeed be leaving the shore to cross an ocean to embark on the biggest journey that the five of us as individuals and the five of us as a family unit would experience.

Asian immigrants ... whether they travel by boat or plane, are referred frequently as "fresh off the boat" or "boat people."

This past December, one of the best things that happened to me was a visit to the Brooklyn Museum. During this visit, I was able to see the famous permanent exhibition by Judy Chicago: The Dinner Party, which celebrates women's contributions to society by celebrating, respecting, and honoring the very essence of femalehood. During this visit, I also saw the phenomenal works of artist Wangechi  Mutu whose multi-faceted narrative embraces the intersections of nature, sex, and culture. I know that these works have influenced me greatly and encouraged me to lose my inhibitions as I explore similar themes in my art.

So the boats have naturally evolved into boat-like people at times, or parts of people ... mostly women ... as I seek to explore the facets and folds of what it means to be the woman I am, and how it feels to hold onto a string of the boat that symbolizes people, places, and things I don't want to lose and don't want to forget.

This February 1st I'll be showing my paintings and other works that have been created as part of this journey. It'll be an imperfect show that may be shown again as works continue to evolve. But even with its imperfections, I'm happy to have the time and space to share my story.

You're invited.

207 N. Broadway St., Suite L
Santa Ana, CA 92701
email: mailbox@crescendoh.com

I'll be there from 5-10 but the two hours when most people will be there during this art walk night are the hours from 7-9PM. Look forward to seeing you there and having you witness my story.


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this concept is intriguing to me, and familiar. I grew up in FL along the east coastline and there were many folks arriving by boat from cuba & Haiti and they were referred to as "boat people." majority of them kind citizens, looking for a better life boat people and some escaping from something horrible and arrived in a land that was resistant to receive them openly. gratefully, that has changed over time due to the grace of God through the church. i would enjoy learning to fold a boat, i wonder if you would do a tutorial showing the how to sometime????? thank you much ;D

Jenny, I love this. I am looking forward to seeing your latest art work, and you. As a fellow immigrant, I am looking forward to a heart connection with your work, and learning more about your story and the creative ways you are exploring your world. xo Lidy

What a beautiful post. The hymn you shared is lovely. God brings each of us on a sacred journey and writes a story that is all our own on our heart. Each of us board the proverbial boat or a plane at just the right time to accomplish that precious story He has given us.

Jenny, I have been so intrigued and inspired watching this exploration of yours manifest through your heart and into your art. So deeply personal and meaningful. Thank you for sharing it!

What a stunning story. Thank you so much for sharing your graceful journey of soul.I can truly relate to your pride, heritage, and your love toward your family. Oh and by the way I love your paper boats - as a young Japanese girl, I grew up folding them with origami with my siblings all the time!

Many years ago I taught preschool and some of the "boat peoples'" children were enrolled at our school. They were so smart, quickly learned English. I think of boat people as very courageous. I can't imagine what it must have been like. And, these brave ones went on to establish successful businesses in a new country. Bravo!

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