Natural Histories: Esther Chin, Yisitie

Esther Chin is a recent graduate of the School of Visual Arts, Edna Manley College. Her work “Yisitie” was part of her final year show and was subsequently shown in the 2012 National Biennial. It is one of the works that inspired the Natural Histories exhibition, in which it was reinstalled in a new, more fluid configuration.

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Esther Chin’s Yisitie though apparently simple, has a number of possible readings. In her artist statement, she describes her use of petals in the work as “part of a post modern language which helps to develop different visual claims.” Such claims may reference the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1960’s which sought to challenge Western art history’s masculinist and culturally prejudiced distinction between craft and fine art (among other things).

The work also seems to be an exploration of the artist’s Chinese-Jamaican heritage. This is most strongly indexed in the work’s title which is the Pinyin translation of her name, Esther. The fact that the petals are from the bougainvillea flower is also significant. The plant is endemic to Jamaica and known for its beauty and hardiness, particularly in times of drought. It is also significant in China where it is the official flower of a number of cities in the Guangdong Province (the part of China where many Chinese Jamaican families originate).



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