Nikki Lau Explores Social Justice and Identity at Pittsburgh Glass Center Residency
Nikki Lau is an artist born and raised in San Francisco, California, and she has joined the Pittsburgh Glass Center family to create the work she will exhibit in the upcoming BIPOC maker exhibition, Full Spectrum (opening February 4, 2022).
Before her residency at PGC, Lau was involved in AmeriCorps and the artist collective she helped create, This Many Boyfriends Club. She also created her own online business. She credits these experiences for inspiring her work and influencing who she wishes to be as an artist. Lau says, “I think I’ve always been into art, even as a little kid. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a life without art and then when it wasn’t there it sucked,” showing her true passion for the work she does. Having a life always filled with art in some way, Lau realized that she could bring positive change through doing what she loved most.
Through Lau’s multiple bodies of work, she hopes to explore messages of social injustices and identity politics within the modern day. "When the pandemic hit I opened up an online store and I’ve been selling pottery and that’s what I do full-time.” Additionally, Lau’s time in AmeriCorps gave her significant insight as to how she could incorporate the real world into her work.
Many artists can relate to Lau's experience getting involved with the Full Spectrum exhibition and residency. Having only seen the application the day before it was due, Lau decided that it was a great opportunity to take advantage of and decided to go through with filling it out. Lau mentioned how she has not been a part of an exhibition for a while and was hoping to rejoin the scene. She was also drawn to opportunity to do what she calls "heart and soul work." “Soul work is telling stories that don’t, like I’ve said before, [tell] what’s missing. So, I think about that narrative and what’s missing and then I try to fill those stories in with the sculpture work. And sometimes it could just be a question that’s posed like ‘why is this here?’ and ‘why is this not here?’ Heart-work is a lot about, like when I created my business, taking care of my inner-child because I was feeling so scared during the pandemic. With all the Asian hate that was happening, I was like, I need to create a separate world where I feel loved in and seen in, so that’s that work.”
Lau has been working on her own piece for the BIPOC maker exhibition in which she is presenting her culture through casted congee, a rice porridge. Lau brings up the significance food truly has when accessing different cultures and how that played an important part in deciding what she would like to create. Her inspiration came from visiting the last remaining Chinese restaurant in the original Chinatown, in which she ate some food and looked around for other influences. She wishes that through her work in the Full Spectrum exhibition displays the parallels of cultural disappearances.
Lau is excited to be working on something new for the exhibition, as it is a way for artists who are looked over to finally gain the recognition they deserve. Through her work, Lau emphasizes the stigmas that are created through identity politics and the social injustice that significantly impacts BIPOC. Lau finds it important that artists, no matter their representation or identity, should be represented and given their due diligence for all that they have contributed. Lau’s work within the upcoming exhibition is a stepping stone into the right direction to gain a positive future, as it reflects on problems occurring in modern society.
Knowing that there is a lot of work ahead, that never stops Nikki Lau from spreading her message to those that will listen and wish to grow. “Absolutely more inclusion of BIPOC creators in the museum world. I think that would help if positions of power were actually held by BIPOC, there’s a whole spectrum of people missing in museums. I think that if there were more people in those positions, that’s when you can see what’s missing.”
By Dilann Harris, Pittsburgh Glass Center Intern
Learn more about Nikki Lau at www.nikkilauart.com.