Thoughts on transgenerational Trauma

I haven’t spoken much of one of the underlying themes of my work, transgenerational trauma, so I wanted to mention it here.

I, like many people, have experienced multiple traumatic events in my life so in order to better understand how to work through them, I turned to  psychology. In my pursuit of psychoanalytical interpretation, I stumbled upon the term ‘transgenerational trauma.’ Transgenerational trauma refers to trauma that passes through generations. The idea is that not only can someone experience trauma, they can then pass the symptoms and behaviors of trauma survival on to their children, who then might further pass these along the family line. 

Transgenerational trauma, in the case of this project, can be processed by the affected individual as the removal of identity through the parameters of incarceration, speaking physically as well as psychically. This refers to both my father’s absence in my life and not knowing where I came from as well as the inherited trauma from my ancestors – their identity as American citizens being being stripped from them and being labeled enemies and treated like prisoners.  I am applying this concept through the lenses of personal and familial narratives as well as a fragmented political history of the United States, specifically referencing the Japanese internment camps of WWII.

My family’s story of trauma dates back to the 1940’s during WWII. My grandfather and his family were forced to leave their homes with only what they could carry in a suitcase and moved to the Portland County Fairgrounds where they lived in stables meant for pigs. They lived there for a few weeks until the “camps” were ready to move into. Once they were moved into the camps, they were only provided with a bare light bulb, a coal burning stove, and a couple cots. They had to make their furniture with scraps that they found lying around the camp. They repurposed materials to make art to find a sense of peace in the hell they were living in. This was later called the ‘art of gaman’ which means to bear the unbearable with dignity and grace. I used this idea of gaman and repurposing found materials in my studio into my art work.

Nicole, I measured the “random” vertical and horizontal lines on my wall and they measured 15.5’x8′!! I’m so glad that you pointed that out. Lol. It’s amazing how our subconscious guides us!

Below is a detail shot of my final installation in Beeler Gallery. In a philosophical sense, it is symbolic of the body imprisoning us (both transgenerational trauma in our DNA) and using performance (learning our identity) as a way to move through the process (doing the work). This is the experience just before and leading into liberation. This can be looked at on a spiritual as well as physical level.



The creation process & the physical art

Wow! I cannot believe that my time at CCAD is almost finished. It’s bittersweet to say the least. I had my oral defense and my final critique, both on the same day, two days ago. I was the last person to go during critique and got to close out our final MFA class ever! Seeing how I had my defense shortly before that, I was exhausted, but very happy with it.

At the beginning of last year, I wrote that I was struggling with this idea of separateness in art; speaking specifically about fine art vs. commercial art. That idea has come to expand in many ways, including the idea of my physical/material being and my spiritual being. I believe that anxiety arises and things feel as if they’re in discord when things aren’t harmonious, and I think this can present itself in many different ways. Recently, what I’ve been struggling with is the disconnect in my writing between my making/creation process and the physical work that lives on the walls in the gallery. When I talk about my work it’s always really abstract, but when you view the work it is very physical and representational.

Talking out loud during my defense, I learned that although the physical work that I created is representational of and curated to specific content, e.g. the relationship between a father and daughter, newly-discovered familial Japanese lineage, and the history of the Japanese internment camps of World War II in the United States, I’ve curated an environment to create that has a an underlying foundation of existential philosophy as well as spiritualism. At first glance, these processes may seem disconnected with the work because the spiritual and philosophical aren’t represented as a 1:1 correlation in the tangible work, but this process of manifestation is essential in the creation of the work.

When I go on spiritual journeys to find guidance, I see all kinds of fantasy entities that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with the content of my work. For example, my guardian is a black dragon that guides me through space and forests to find fire and indigenous people. I may not know what they are immediately, but generally, they present themselves as some symbolic representation at some point. The dragon does have a physical connection to the work, but I wasn’t aware of this when I first met him.

I’m looking more into this creation aspect to see if it’s possible to combine creative writing (journeys) with academic writing (transgenerational trauma). This is a new endeavor for me, so wish me luck!

This is really happening…

Ah, one month until install, and I’m only silently freaking out. 🙂 There is so much going on in the month of March and although I am extremely grateful, I am also very overwhelmed. I’m freakishly calm and that makes me a little nervous. Have I  mastered control over my emotions, or is this the calm before the storm?

For critique today, I have over 120 individual pieces that comprise my large installation piece. I’ve tacked up everything with t-pins and I really like the delicate yet investigative look that they give. There are two different methods of installing that I’m thinking about:

1) a 20’x16′ installation piece. This is significant because that was the size of the barrack that my family lived in during the Japanese incarceration of WWII at Tule Lake in California. This also informs the metaphorical subconscious prison that I’ve built in my head with this work being a premier step in becoming liberated.

2) Taking up the entire wall which has a the dimension of 36’6″x16′. In both cases I’ve referenced Wolfgang Tillmans’ hanging technique, but with the latter, I would need to be even  more conscious of condensed collaged placement and negative space. I’ll need to do a mockup in photoshop since my current wall space is 24’x11′.

The core of the physical artwork is almost complete, although I plan on continuing to make until Thursday, March 14. I plan on making a few more large prints with the longest side being up to 44″. This will come into play if I decide to install on the entire wall instead of the barrack-sized installation. Other than that, I have to dig up some photos that I buried and see how they interacted with the land. I also need to put a heavy focus on curation of the images.

Here are some things I’ve jotted down to try:


    1. not matching pieces (?) (4 different pieces, 2 on each side of face)

    2. overlay text from relocation camp/coming to US over photo
    3. bleach (partially to partially erase the image)
    4. writing text as fragments, not one continuous essay
    5. frame kinstugi pieces
    6. takeaway book with journey text
    7. arrange books like a flatplan (bookstyle)

    8. Photograph self in mirror with camera

      1. Incorporate same mirror in installation

    9. Look for maps/floor plans/photos of Tule Lake

    10. Edit Joann’s conversation

    11. Categorize and examine the entire collection of photographs for emerging patterns
    12. develop resist photos



But for now, brain is mush. See you in 2.5 hours! 😀 ❤

The Day before Critique 2, Semester 2

I entered CCAD as a photographer and now I would call myself a lens-based, mixed media installation artist. I’ve barely used my camera this year as I’ve mostly been focusing on photo transfer onto various materials – as you can see from my studio (below).


Art of Precious Scars – Installation Piece

  • Reclamation of agency through deconstruction and reconstruction of personal identity and reconstruction of memory. Physically deconstructing and reconstructing imagery that represents personal narrative, but can be interpreted globally.
  • Replication = memory. Every time we recall a memory it changes, or is never remembered exactly the same.
  • “my work should echo all my curiosities at once.”
    • “I’m not an expert, I am just a curious person existing in the world.” – Hanif Abdurraqib
  • Alan Watts
  • Carl Jung
  • Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • Wolfgang Tillmans
  • 2 stories:
    • Non-consent
      • Transformation
      • Abstraction = bigger picture, wholeness
      • Replication
    • Relationship with Father
      • Breaking & mending
      • Ethnography to know my Japanese heritage
  • Japanese
  • Kintsugi: The art of precious scars
  • Haiku (???)
  • Prison:
    • Initial proposal to CCAD
    • “Free Hugs” billboard
    • Car accident
    • Hiroshi said studio looked like a detective’s office at a police station
    • Mushrooms
    • Japanese internment camps
    • Anxiety and repression = a prison of my own making in my subconscious
  • Spiritualism
    • Journeying
    • My spiritual journey
  • Personal identity, but global
    • Mirrors =
      • Broken soul
      • Self-Reflection
      • Kanyini —>
        • Kanyini – through each other we find ourselvThe Universe wants you to succeed. Do not hesitate to ask and receive assistance, for your fulfillment of your own mission helps others.
  • Life is what you make it. Literally. You can recreate who you are through reframing your traumas.
  • Liberation from the hallucination. To wake up from the hypnosis and discover that you are something being done by this vast and indescribable self which is out of time, has no beginning, no end, it neither continues or discontinues. All that we can say positively is the negative – it is not this, it is not that. Anything you can imagine or picture will not be the self. So when you are trying to know the self, you have to get rid of every idea in your head… when you come out of absorption and see the everyday world and see clearly that it is all the self.”

Year II, Critique II

I feel like my second critique went really well. It’s the first time, since I’ve been in grad school, that I’ve felt confident in my work and what I’m trying to say. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I’m on the right path and am excited to see where this leads.

Aftermath notes…

Photo Transfers

Been playing with photo transfers. It’s pretty cool.

I’ve only worked digitally in my previous lives so to be able to work with tangible materials is a fun new experience! It’s teaching me patience and gentleness and risk-taking.

I also like working with acrylic gel- In order to see the image, I have to scrape away at whats covering it up- it’s a process that I’ve been working on with myself, pulling back one layer at a time in order to see my most authentic self.

Also, I love being on the second floor studio space (even if my studio floods). It’s private and cool and feels underground and gritty. I’m thankful for my classmates who have shown support and given guidance, especially Janelle. I’m grateful that grad school has crossed our paths. ✨


I’ve been wondering why I am drawn to the use of many photos and collage work. It’s really difficult for me to narrow down my work and focus on one piece- maybe it’s because I take so many photos and I want to incorporate them all because it tells a more in-depth story or maybe it’s just the way my mind works and wonders.

Reading an article about collage, these words made me ponder:

“Mirroring both associative thought and emotional sensibility, it molds itself after the pattern of its maker more faithfully than any other medium save drawing. And because it can subsume all other media, collage has an incredible expressive arc that swings from the violent iconoclasm of Dada (Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch) to the elegant whimsy of children’s books (Beatrice Alemagna, Eric Carle).”

“The dazzling possibilities of post production have transformed photography from a primarily perceptual to a more deeply creative medium.”

“Photographers such as Helen Chadwick, David LaChapelle, Joan Fontcuberta, Penelope Umbrico, Thomas Ruff, Nic Nicosia, Mariko Mori, Mary Mattingly, Idris Khan, Didier Massard, Annette Kelm, and scores of others, create images defiantly in the face of common sense reality.”

“For them, as for many others, a photograph was a fragment of the world, a classifiable bit of reality, the perfect doppelganger upon which to wreak havoc.” (Speaking of Dadaists)

“But well before Dada, before Cubism even, Victorian scrapbookers, the largely unsung heroines of collage, created some the most delightful, whimsical examples of the form. In fact, the work of such women as Lady Filmer and Viscountess Joce­­lyn remain a major part of that hidden stream of collage: folk art. Especially women’s folk art”

“The Victorian scrapbooking impulse was all but forgotten when Dada violence merged with Freudian introversion in Surrealism, the movement lead with an iron hand by the poet-pope, André Breton. The Surrealists loved dreams, hallucinations, altered and aberrant states of all kinds, including psychosis.”

“Dedicated to the pursuit of the unknown, Surrealist research emphasized the process of discovery over the crafting of objects. Ergo collage, the perfect surrealist medium.”

Max Ernst

Man Ray – Fashion photography in the 30s and 40s

Vogt, List, Beaton, Maar

“Collage is the medium that embraces almost everything.”

“Though people like Robert Fichter and Les Krims had brought a collage sensibility into the medium a generation earlier, it was really Cindy Sherman in the 1970s who sounded the death knell of ordinary vision, at least in the gallery and museum worlds. Her work brought three things firmly into focus: fantasy, narcissism, and artifice.”

(Cindy Sherman) “Her first important series, Untitled Film Stills, celebrated illusion. This may look real, these images said, but they are illusions.”

“But by opening the door to the imagination, a collage sensibility, combining things that do not ordinarily go together, altering the way they look and the company they keep, almost inevitably permeated the medium. This can be seen in work such as Julie Blackman’s…”

And with its rise, imagination and feeling, fantasy and sarcasm, expressiveness and intellect have ample room to operate, to cut and paste their way into photography once more.

Research Time:

  • associative thought 
  • emotional sensibility
  • violent iconoclasm
  • Raoul Hausmann
  • Hannah Höch
  • Beatrice Alemagna
  • Eric Carle
  • Helen Chadwick
  • David LaChapelle
  • Joan Fontcuberta
  • Penelope Umbrico
  • Thomas Ruff
  • Nic Nicosia
  • Mariko Mori
  • Mary Mattingly
  • Idris Khan
  • Didier Massard
  • Annette Kelm
  • a photograph was a fragment of the world
  • Victorian scrapbookers
    • Lady Filmer
    • Viscountess Joce­­lyn
  • Dada violence
  • Freudian introversion
  • Surrealism
  • dreams, hallucinations, altered and aberrant states of all kinds, including psychosis
  • the pursuit of the unknown
  • emphasized the process of discovery over the crafting of objects
  • Max Ernst
  • Man Ray
  • Vogt, List
  • Beaton
  • Maar
  • Robert Fichter
  • Les Krims
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Julie Blackman

Moment of clarity.

I’ve started working with some family photos that I brought back with me my from my Dad’s over the summer. I’ve been collaging my face with his face and I like that direction that it’s going. This feels right. It’s personal yet relatable.

Creative Control and Hanif Abdurraqib

I shared this on insta, but wherever my work exists, it’s pieces always align in one way or another as it comes from my heart and my mind. (<— separateness again)

Self-Portrait. 🖤 I’ve been struggling a lot with the idea of separateness in art over the past 18 months. I started shooting 3 years ago and almost immediately became a commercial photographer, creating for other people to help solve their problems. As I’ve been working more in the fine art realm, it’s occurred to me that I haven’t fully explored creating for myself and figuring out my voice. At the @creativecontrolfest this morning, I had the privilege of hearing the very talented, @nifmuhammad speak and his words really resonated with me. Speaking about how he doesn’t fit into a single genre of writing, he said “my work should echo all my curiosities at once,” and “I’m not an expert, I am just a curious person existing in the world.” These are two statements that I’ll keep close to my heart as I continue to make. In the meantime, being in my thesis year of grad school, I am attempting to commit (very scary) and hone in on the specificities of family photos- this is also new and challenging for me as I’ve mostly done one-off shoots and am learning how to perfect my craft by going deeper with a single, or limited concepts. I’m nervous and excited to see where all this goes and just trying to share my journey a little at a time. ✨✨✨