Visiting artist Jamie Ho collaborates with WSU

Kristin Kovalsky, Copy editor

Winona State University hosted artist Jamie Ho on Wednesday, Feb. 3, to present a lecture on her project, Canton Gulf. The lecture was part of this year’s university theme: My Global Identity, Our Global Community.
According to the Winona State website, “the theme promotes conversations about the plurality of global identities and builds awareness through experiential learning opportunities in our community.”
Roger Boulay, assistant professor in the art department, said Ho’s project fit well with the university theme.
“Jamie is the daughter of immigrant parents who came to the U.S. from China, so there’s a direct connection between global identity and her story,” Boulay said. “The photographs she is showing are an investigation of what home means when you grow up in a U.S. or Floridian culture, and you’re also bringing all these traditions and cultures from your parents’ homeland.”
Boulay said that art shows are typically planned two years in advance. Boulay and other faculty members meet to decide which artists to show.
“We try to put together a schedule that we think will be interesting for both our majors, as well as the general population, and that reflects art and culture across Minnesota and the region,” Boulay said.
Ho spoke about her parents’ Chinese heritage during her lecture in connection with her project, Canton Gulf.
Ho said she started working on the project more than five years ago in 2015.  Ho said she was inspired to start this project because it allowed her to visit her childhood home and connect with it in a new way.
“It first started as a way to revisit a place I hadn’t spent a lot of time with after I left. I left Florida in 2007, I think,” Ho said. “I went to my undergrad in Albuquerque, New Mexico, University of New Mexico. I just wouldn’t go back home. I kind of wanted to reconnect with that place that I swore I would never return to.”
While working on the project, Ho’s focus shifted.
“It eventually became a way to reconnect with my Chinese heritage in the way that I just kind of neglected to do when I was living there,” Ho said.
Ho’s project name derives from her parents’ history as Chinese immigrants.
“Canton comes from the westernized name of the Guangdong Providence of China that my parents are from. It also comes from the fact that my parents named their Chinese restaurant they owned for two years, the Canton Chinese Restaurant,” Ho said. “Gulf comes from the fact that they now live in the Gulf Coast of Florida. So, it’s that marriage of two places.”
Ho said the use of color is also important in her photography.
“I use color as a means to talk about different things. I think color becomes very important in my work,” Ho said. “In Canton Gulf, some things are very green just because of the environment, and then also because of how sunny it is all the time, there’s a kind of golden quality to the light in some of the images.”
Ho described her photography style as more of a documentary, particularly with this project.
“Canton Gulf almost feels like a documentary kind of art style,” Ho said. “I’m very interested in taking images of the way my parents are practicing their traditions and rituals as is, and not really interested in any other means to get at it.”
Ho’s project can now be viewed on Winona State’s Watkins Gallery website.