Artist Spotlight: Jill Kuanfung

JILL KUANFUNG – Climbing the Tree Exhibit

“Frida,” ink wash and pen on paper, 30″ x 22″, 2013


Jill Kuanfung describes this exhibit of portraits that examine the fluidity of mixed-race identity and the complexity and depth of family history as follows: 


I created a series of portraits situated in my mixed race history and identity with the intent of focusing on how this history and identity have shaped and continue to shape my experiences of race and racism both within and outside of my family, and furthermore, what role my mixed race identity plays in understanding myself as a participant in systems of oppression and the actions I take to bring myself closer to personal healing and transformation. 


I communicated my family history and identity through portraiture because my studies of mixed race identity begin and end with the body, which is born into history, marked by it, a vessel of it, and which then passes it on (through voice, sex, birth, and death). Portraiture as a means of communicating and translating the bodies that make up my family allowed me to confront my loved ones in an intimate way, to explore the silence of meditating on their experiences, their unique features, and my own memories of them or of those close to them as I worked. 


The act of making this work also allowed for me to focus on the visual aspect of identity—what is told and what is silenced by a visual-only telling of the story. The process of drawing these individuals provided a physical, emotional, and spiritual space for peace, memory, and accountability. In all, I completed nine ink portraits of different family members on different colored sheets of approximately 22″ x 30″ paper using black ink pens, water, liquid India ink, and a large round paintbrush.

See her work at:


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