The Paradox of Being Both Visible and InvisibleNovember 24, 2023
"Let's intentionally create a space that amplifies our voices that feel safe, that creates more of a sense of belonging, that allows us to speak up and be heard." - Rya
When Rya Wu created the very first Have You Eaten (HYE) art exhibition in January 2023 at Slip Gallery in Seattle and the work of over 30 Asian American artists were finally up on the walls, she cried. Rya had spent her life feeling invisible and as if she didn't matter and here she was standing in the middle of a large gallery surrounded by the visual stories of other artists whose work reflected and resonated so deeply with her own life experiences.
In addition to being a platform for artists, the 2-months long exhibition featured opportunities to immerse oneself in the Asian American cultural experience with workshops, food, music, artist talks, dancing and so much more. HYE was an experience that brought together our communities to give visibility to our experiences, our stories, our struggles, and triumphs. It was an opportunity for us to show up as unapologetically Asian, which is something many of us didn't feel safe doing growing up.
For both participating artists and the audience, experiencing HYE became a communal journey of self-discovery and transformation. It was an opportunity to feel seen, connect to each other's humanity, and to see our collective value. It was clear to those of us it touched how needed something like this was. It uplifted us, especially in the face of the Anti-Asian hate which became so prevalent since the pandemic. Rya organized a second HYE exhibition later in May that same year at Kasama Space.
Today, while working two jobs, running the QTBIPOC artists studio and gallery The Fishbowl, as well as working on her jewelry business and trying to find time to create her own art, Rya is running a third HYE exhibition scheduled to take place in February at Nino Studio. Unlike the first HYE, she has no funding for this work and is doing her best but it’s been challenging.
Whether you are an artist or community member who has participated in an HYE exhibit, a member of the AANHPI community who attended and felt represented and seen, an audience member who enjoyed the show and found resonance in its universal themes, or you are someone who believes there is value in art and representation, please consider giving your financial support to make this HYE a success, as well as give back to the person who saw the value in our collective stories and put in her blood, sweat, and literal tears to give all of us a meaningful experience.
Watch this video by Films About Artists about the first HYE exhibit to hear an interview with Rya and a few featured artists about the show (originally made for Instagram).