Women Artists utilize Hungry Ghosts festival to express their concerns

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"Flying Lessons. Inquire Within: Chapter 1" by artist Cynthia Tom will be part of an exhibit at the Marin Museum Of Contemporary Art, from Aug. 10 to Sept. 15 in Novato, CA.



The festival of Hungry Ghosts is an ancient commemoration celebrated throughout Asia. Similar in ways to our Halloween here in the West, a collaboration of 15 Asian women artists will exhibit their works at the Marin Museum Of Contemporary Art (MMOCA) beginning this Aug. 10.

“Flying Lessons. Inquire Within: Chapter 1” by artist Cynthia Tom will be part of an exhibit at the Marin Museum Of Contemporary Art, from Aug. 10 to Sept. 15 in Novato, CA.

“HUNGRY GHOSTS – Exploring the intersections between chronic heartache and resilience” features the work of the 15 artists from the viewpoint of multiple generations, ethnic backgrounds and gender identities.

This eclectic and mixed-media exhibit highlights how an artistic exploration of ancestral family patterns shines a light on the monsters in our closets, turning them to dust bunnies, providing epiphanies necessary to heal and thrive in community.

Combining intuitive art with truthful stories, the 15-women explore both ancestral trauma and resilience in their artwork.

The annual festival of the ‘Hungry Ghosts’ is an appropriate time for these artists to address the issues and feelings they want to dispel.

Even in ancient Western culture the waning intensity of summer gives way to the shift of the seasons to autumn. This then “lifts the veil” or “opens the door” to the ethereal/spiritual realm and then that essence/reality enters into world.

The exhibit’s curators Cynthia Tom and Maggie Yee will be coordinating lectures, docent tours and opportunities to talk to the artists throughout the month-long engagement of at MMOCA.

Over the years Cynthia’s work has been focused on the subconscious and the cultural, through her unique and varied forms of surrealism. She has utilized the “hungry ghosts” theme before. While her artistic skills using surrealism are formidable, to describe Cynthia simply as a ‘surrealistic artist’ is an understatement.

In both her individual work and collaborative projects with other artists, Cynthia has taken the use of artistic expression to greater levels. When she and her fellow artists put together an exhibit, it is truly an installation of art in varied forms on a grand scale.

“Evacuation 22” by Irene Wibawa, illustrates how the history of Indonesia and immigration shaped myths and truths about Chinese families living in Indonesia.

Like the muralists who utilize a large canvas, and convey the complexity of composition and meaning in a public space, Cynthia seeks to engage society in the art on a deeper level.

‘Interactive’ could be a word to describe what she does. But for at least the past 10 years, Cynthia’s art has been more about an urgent activism. Even her whimsical pieces from her earliest works, hint at the yearning for people to “wake up!” And to call people to engage in a world in critical need of a certain kind of care, very much lacking these days.

Her painting installation entitled, “Flying Lessons. Inquire Within: Chapter 1” depicts what appears to be a large flock of women’s dress-forms. “These dress forms, Cynthia said represent the 100000000000’s of ancestral female voices (past present and future) that are silenced due to unbridled patriarchy, cultural tradition, and corrupt governments. The colorful ones are the females that have found their voice, the other more somber dressforms are still building courage, are waking up. The 3D dressforms, created from paper mache and tissue paper begin with pink and are shaded with earth undertones.”

Pink is a universal symbol for the feminine and it is also ironic that the pink amaryllis that blooms in late July or early August indicates autumn is approaching. Autumn is the season of transition, of transformation. And, it is at this time of year, that a shift towards the harvest becomes most evident.

This reporter gets the impression that Cynthia’s painting might be asking, “what is this coming to? What is society reaping?” “What is the harvest that the greater society is reaping after so much toil and frenzied consumption?”

Cynthia took a few moments to tell me what the upcoming exhibit means to her. “I have been working on this difficult exhibition she said; because it is important.” Explaining further she added. “This show is part of our art-based program to help heal women of color as an act of protest (amid the current political polarization) and to build a broader sense of communities of compassion that go beyond the SF Bay Area.”

“Detained Aliens Enemies 2” by Reiko Fujii. This art installation utilizes vintage family photos taken during the Japanese Interment years of WWII

As part of that sense of activism in her work, Cynthia and her fellow women artists formed ‘A PLACE OF HER OWN™’ An Arts Based Healing Program, providing workshops that culminate into exhibitions, like HUNGRY GHOSTS, primarily for women of color. Exploring HUNGRY GHOSTS, which PLACE metaphorically uses to refer to Family Patterns twisted by traumas like colonization, war, and forced migration.

The program uses intuitive art making processes and group sharing for self-reflection while addressing ancestral trauma. Participants learn to recognize and release old patterns, including links to family and cultural traditions, while claiming aspirations, showcasing their narrative art during a public art exhibition.

The artists featured in the exhibit beginning on Aug. 10 are: Angela Bau, Frances Cachapero, Irene Wibawa, Julie Anderson, Lisa Rodondi, Manon Bogerd Wada, Avotcja, Natalie Sacramento, Paz Zamora, Reiko Fujii, Cynthia Tom, Maggie Yee, Sue Tom and Tomo Hirai

“This show at MMOCA is in Novato,” Cynthia said. But she noted the emotional materials and content of the collaborative exhibit reach out way beyond a suburban setting. It reaches out to the entire word.

“The exhibit represents the female voices of those who’ve ever been ignored, neglected, imprisoned, unloved or abused and silenced. In keeping with the commemoration of the annual Hungry Ghosts festival, the show also represents Ancestors past, present and future. We wish for them all to rise up, Cynthia said and overcome our oppressors on all fronts.”

Seen more up close is “Flying Lessons. Inquire Within: Chapter 1” by Cynthia Tom. The painting depicts what appears to be a large flock of women’s dress-forms.

Opening August 10, “HUNGRY GHOSTS – Exploring the intersections between chronic heartache and resilience” will continue until Sept. 15 at the Marin Museum Of Contemporary Art. (MMOCA) is located at 500 Palm Drive, Novato.

The artists will be present on opening day and talks, tours and activities are scheduled throughout the run of the exhibit with a “come chat with the artists” session for the closing day on Sept. 15. An opening day Reception will be held at 5 PM. For more details visit A Place Of Their Own web site – Or call: 415-722-4296.