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  • Christina Ayson

Salt Stained - the First Southeast Asian Artists Exhibit in Japantown, San Jose, CA

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

Taiko drums reverberated through the neighborhood. The smell of fish sauce wafted through the streets of Japantown. The scent and sound greeted excited guests at the gates of Art Object Gallery to celebrate the exhibition opening of Salt Stained, Chopsticks Alley Art’s inaugural exhibition. It was the first time Filipino, Vietnamese, and Japanese artists collaborated in San Jose, CA.

Salt Stained is a testament to the vibrancy of Vietnamese, Filipino, and Japanese culture that has been cultivated by passionate and hardworking community members for years. Over 300 people attended the event to view works by artists Binh Danh, Kenneth & Lola Collaboration, Thinh Thi Truong, Trinh Mai, and Tuan Tran. The works of art reminds attendees that success was often in the face of colonization, exclusion, and racism – forces beyond their control. These communities may have lived through hardships, but they are more than the suffering they experienced. The Southeast Asian and East Asian communities of San Jose are thriving. The opening celebrated and recognized the integral impact of Asian Americans to San Jose that has long been forgotten, hidden, and overlooked.

Chopsticks Alley Art is a non-profit organization based in San Jose, California, whose mission is to promote and serve the diverse community of Southeast Asian artists. We mounted the exhibition in collaboration with San Jose Museum of Art as a part of their community initiative, New Terrains: Mobility and Migration. Susan Sayre Batton, executive director of San Jose Museum of Art, congratulated Chopsticks Alley’s executive director, Trami Cron, in opening the timely exhibition.

Joining the artists and Chopsticks Alley was a lively list of entertainers and partners. Chef Tu David Phu from the latest season of Top Chef dazzled taste buds with array of dishes. San Jose’s Famous Lao Papaya Sausage and Academic Coffee served tantalizing bites and beverages. The Emmy Award winning Van-Anh Vanessa Vo stunned the crowd with her operatic voice. Her performance was a tour de force that featured her rock-star goddess mastery over traditional Vietnamese instruments blended with Western influences.

The success of Salt Stained was only made possible by the partners, artists, and supporters of the exhibition. As Dr. Jerry Hiura of the Contemporary Asian Theater Scene said, “We’re all products of war. We use the same words like diaspora and trauma, so it’s about time.”

The warmth and camaraderie of the event is indicative of everyone’s belief in the meaning behind the exhibition. And just as the pungent taste of fish sauce lingers on your tongue, the artists of Salt Stained implored visitors to note that in celebrating culture, we must do so by remembering painful histories. It is in these conditions, similar to those of the opening, that Southeast Asian artists can thrive and continue to build a diverse, proud, and collaborative future.

This exhibit marks the beginning of something greater to come for all our communities.

To support Chopsticks Alley Art and our work, click on this link.

Exhibit will run from September 8, 2018 - October 26, 2018

Gallery Hours:

Fri & Sat 11-5pm

Sun 11-2pm

To request a group tour send an email to

Photos by Todd Davalos

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Christina Ayson - San Jose, CA Contributor

Christina Ayson is a scholar and educator based in San Jose, California. She is working on her doctoral degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the History of Art and Visual Culture Studies department. Her focus is on how Filipino American artists negotiate the art museum’s role in the gentrification of the San Francisco Bay Area. She received a Master of Arts in Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Studio Art at Marist College. By creating dialogic art experiences based on social justice practices, Christina hopes to foster a museum by and for the community.

#Pinoy #filipinoamerican #artist #art

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