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Indigo Som collaborating with the Chinese Historical Society of America

Award: $35,000 Visual Arts grant awarded in 2004

Presented: February-March, 2005

Indigo Som and the Chinese Historical Society of America collaborated to create and exhibit “Mostly Mississippi: Chinese Restaurants of the South,” new photographic installation about Chinese restaurants. The collaboration included interviews, archival and historical research, and a blog chronicling Som’s travels as she photographed and recorded sound in Chinese restaurants throughout the American South. The Society’s network of contacts within Chinese American communities facilitated the artist’s work, its staff historians guided her research, and it presented the resulting exhibition.

“Mostly Mississippi” was part of a long-term investigation of the relationship between Chinese restaurants and American culture. Som is particularly fascinated by the consistent presence of Chinese restaurants in places otherwise notable for the apparent absence of anything—or anybody—else Chinese.  She photographs the restaurants using a $20 plastic Holga camera and enlarges the images as 34” square Iris prints so that they physically command attention as windows onto their landscapes.

Indigo Som is a visual artist and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Widely exhibited in group and solo shows at such venues as Mills College Art Museum, Islip Art Museum, and the New York Public Library, Som’s artwork has been collected by the Museum of Modern Art and The Getty Center, among other institutions; and her writing has been published in numerous journals and anthologies.

Founded in 1963, the Chinese Historical Society of America is dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the history of the Chinese in the United States. The Society hosts exhibitions, lectures, workshops, field trips, and special events that promote the legacy of Chinese in America.

Photo: Indigo Som, “Golden China, Red Wing, Minnesota,” 34” x 34” iris print, 2003