Cheryll Leo-Gwin



Sculpture of a split torso with images of marilyn monroe and mao zedong on either side along with other illustrations and commercial symbols

Both Marilyn and Mao personify the selling of women as commodities. Photo by Spike Mafford

As a visual artist, I use narrative imagery to bring forgotten history to the forefront. The histories I am interested in have to do with issues of social justice and celebration of the human spirit. In researching my own heritage for inclusion in my art, I came across the almost forgotten US Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882-1943. With various grants for artists’ projects I have been able to present my work and addressing the Exclusion Act and it’s effect on our society. Audiences have thanked me for enlightening them about this dark part of our history that while they considered themselves highly educated, they were surprised that they did not know that these injustices against the Chinese in America existed. As a result, the stories about the effect of the legislation have spread among our larger community as well as to China where some of my artwork has been exhibited. The display of the artwork and my lectures has created conversations regarding not only the Chinese Exclusion Act but similarities regarding our current immigration concerns.

Back to back sculpture torsos with colorful images painted over the surface

Chinese Exclusion Acts were simultaneous in the US and Canada. Photo by Spike Mafford