Michele Carlson

howilearnedtoMichele Carlson is a practicing artist, writer, educator, and curator whose interdisciplinary research investigates the intersections of history, memory, loss, race, and popular culture. Carlson was born in Seoul, Korea, but grew up in Seattle, WA and attended the University of Washington where she received a BFA in Printmaking and BAs in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts and History. After her undergraduate work, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she completed an MFA in Printmaking and MA in Visual & Critical Studies from the California College of the Arts.

Her visual work, primarily works on paper, has been exhibited nationally at venues including Patricia Sweetow Gallery, the San Francisco Arts Commission, Intersection for the Arts, and Cerasoli Gallery, Los Angeles. She has received awards and fellowships from Kala Art Institute, San Francisco Arts Commission, and the Reader’s Digest Museum Foundation. Her critical writings and creative writings have been published in numerous publications including Art in America, Art Practical, and Afterimage and various exhibition catalogs. She is a regular contributor for KQED Arts where she writes about art and digital culture.

In addition to her visual work and writing practices, Carlson is an editor for Hyphen’s, a national print and online publication focusing on Asian American culture and politics. She is a member of the Curatorial Committee at Southern Exposure, in San Francisco, where she recently co-curated an exhibition titled Reverse Rehearsals, which was an iterative collaboration between 18 artists and writers.

She is currently an Adjunct Professor in the MFA Fine Arts and Visual and Critical Studies departments at California College of the Arts. She also teaches undergraduate courses in Asian American studies, studio arts, art history and visual studies at University of California, Davis and several other San Francisco Bay Area colleges.

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About Michele Carlson’s Thesis Project

Michele Carlson

Home Is Where We Stand: Transnational Adoptees and Racial Melancholia

All of my life I have been haunted by phantom memories I cannot remember clearly. Sometimes if I try hard enough they begin to come back to me, but not in my photo albums or in the faces of the families that surround me. Not in the deep beats of the music always pumping into my ears or in the classes I take to help me find them. I do feel bad for losing them, but I know they are there, drifting and floating, following their own trails painted by forgotten children. People have tried to tell me where I could find those memories. I thought about following them to lands spanning war-torn countries and the fantasies of Western heroes. Still I could never really see those memories the way I felt I should. The negotiation of fixed cultural memory and grand narratives is common to the Asian transnational adoption experience. Framed within this narrative of loss, mourning, and compensation, the adoptee is repeatedly positioned as a foreigner who must maneuver multiple histories, families, and nations.The growing public interest in the practice of transnational adoption has risen largely in response to the media hype around the recent wave of celebrity adoptions. This essay attempts to provide a critical examination of what is at stake for the Asian American adoptee when he or she is immersed in a sea of images that reinforce Western constructed ideals of normativeness and family building. These cultural forces create a melancholic relationship between the adoptee, his or her mythic motherland, and the adoptive home that works to position the adoptee as different, foreign, and perpetually searching for “true” home.

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