Joyce Yuruo Hong – Orange County Register

In her artwork, Joyce Yuruo Hong aims to combat cultural appropriation with cultural appreciation.

Seven years ago, her family moved here from Hangzhou, China, a city south of Shanghai. She’s a first-generation immigrant with a keen awareness of her family’s history and geographic migrations in her homeland and abroad.

Family heritage, she wrote, “is something running down our blood, it can be memories that we carry throughout our lifetime, it can be a ballad that has been sung from generation to generation.”

It can also be the time-space map she created using wire, paper and PVC board to illustrate her family’s many ties stretching from China to the United States. The work was one of five mixed media pieces that earned Hong recognition as Artist of the Year for handcrafted visual arts.

She used that map as the foundation for vertical abstract sculptures that she then used as the basis for geometric floor plans that evolved into the architectural design of a community that reflected her own family’s needs.

“She has found a way to trace her family history and create art as well as become a visionary for better residential design,” observed Paige Oden, director of visual arts at Orange County School of the Arts, who nominated the OCSA senior for Artist of the Year.

While heritage is central to Hong’s creativity, more recent events — the anti-Asian hatred that surged during the coronavirus pandemic here and in other parts of her adopted country — underscored for her a role she could play in the Stop Asian Hate movement.

“As a Chinese American artist, my initiative is to convey a sense of cultural appreciation through my art.”

Her parents, now divorced, moved here to give their two daughters a better education. Her family has faced financial difficulties that included living in cramped quarters that sparked her interest in designing living spaces that could better accommodate families of modest means.

The move also provided Hong the opportunity to express herself more freely.

Hong, 18, engages her talent in mixed media, drawing and painting, metal work, sculpting, and scenic design that includes stage sets for plays performed at her school.

Her grandfather, whom she describes as a “traditional Chinese artist,” directed her toward the field of art as a child. As a young girl, she drew and painted. Later exposure to working with ceramics expanded her sense of possibilities afforded by 3D art and mixed media.

More recently, she’s been influenced by the minimalist work of award-winning Chinese stage designer Liu Xinglin.

The Artist of the Year judges saw a future for her in set design and/or urban design.

The sophistication behind Hong’s work prompted this remark from Angela Brown, art teacher at Aliso Niguel High: “There’s a super high level of thinking going on there.”

Handcrafted visual arts finalists

Handcrafted visual arts is divided into three specialties: ceramics, hand drawing & painting, and mixed media. In addition to Artist of the Year, the judges selected finalists in each category.

Meg Hiroko Sauzedde of Rancho Santa Margarita, a senior studying at Trabuco Hills High School, is the handcrafted visual arts finalist in the specialty of ceramics for Artist of the Year in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Madison Billington)

Ceramics: Meg Hiroko Sauzedde, 17, senior at Trabuco Hills High. She said she was hesitant about being placed in a ceramics class four years ago. But once she started working with clay, it was instant love. “It just feels good in my hands,” she says. She needed something to make her feel good, coming from an abusive home. Sauzedde now lives with a foster parent. She plans to major in bio chemistry at Cal State Fullerton, then use the hand skills she’s honed in ceramics as a perfusionist, the surgical team member who operates a heart-lung machine.

Grace Jo of Irvine, a senior studying at Orange County School of the Arts, is the handcrafted visual arts finalist in the specialty of hand drawing and painting for Artist of the Year in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Myung Kim)

Hand drawing & painting: Grace Jo, 17, senior at Orange County School of the Arts. She knows exactly where she is headed — to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She got serious about art in her junior year of high school. Jo knows she is being given opportunities denied her mother, who, she said “was doubted by her peers and her very own mom about her passion for art.” No such doubt holds back Jo. “Art is just my life, honestly,” she said. “I want to pursue it forever.”

Hannah Kang of La Habra, a senior studying at Orange County School of the Arts, is the handcrafted visual arts finalist in the specialty of mixed media for Artist of the Year in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Kang)

Mixed media: Hannah Kang, 18, senior at Orange County School of the Arts. She wants to integrate film, fine arts and computer science into whatever she ends up doing in the future. Her top choice for college is Rhode Island School of Design. A yearning for more independence has her dreaming of backpacking around the world someday. This is how she identifies her greatest skill: “The ability to identify a need and to produce a creative solution that fulfills that need.”

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