Disturbed by the prevalence of racism and the realities of being black in America, Chukes transforms his energy into thoughtful, almost futuristic clay busts, or “veneers.” Peaceful and sober, his figures absorb these emotions and look out to the viewer with powerful serenity. A love for melody is evident in the fluidity of his figures; as Chukes’ sculpts, he carves identities that trace connections between visual art and music. The busts’ exaggerated feminine features are smoothed, in contrast with their deep, richly textured surfaces. Chukes makes his passion clear as he celebrates the ability of art and music to transcend differences in race and the spaces our identities occupy.
Phung Huynh grapples with identity from the in-between. Born in Vietnam and raised in America, Huynh meditates on the divide of East and West, shaped by her family’s experiences as refugees. With a nod to caricature, Huynh’s female figures are rendered as soft and rounded, reminiscent of classical nudes. Her pieces in “Veneer” turn Asian iconography on its head, offering multiple perspectives and cultural lenses through which to view her work. The images examine body image and conceptions of artifice. Hyunh’s delicate drawing and brushwork layer contemporary symbols with the fraught legacy of Orientalism, as her figures appear augmented and artificial. Presenting Chinese foot-binding as proto cosmetic surgery, Huynh likens plastic surgery to the hypersexualization of Asian women and the pressure to achieve Western beauty standards; to assimilate into one culture while maintaining identity with another.