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  • A.D. Herzel

My Asian-American Mythologies

I have always sought refuge in stories and mythology. Every culture makes and looks to its own mythologies for guidance, sense, and purpose. The American cultural experience homogenized by a White Western Art aesthetic has represented a counterpoint to my experience as an Asian American woman.

Am I to accept its rules, digest its parameters, or do I ask for more? As a creator, I have always believed in creating my own world, my own rules, my own vision, and mythologies. Redefining the culture, I was planted in and re-assessing the one I was born out of I have chosen my own dreams.

Madame Butterfly sings the multiverse, mixed media

"Madame Butterfly," the opera by Puccini, tells the story of a Japanese woman who falls in love with an American. She turns her back on her culture and family, marries him, has his child, and then is ultimately abandoned by him. He returns to her country with his new white wife. Madame Butterfly commits suicide and her child, a son is taken to be raised in America.

I have a love hate relationship with this story and the libretto. The parallels to my history as a Korean-American adoptee are obvious and the empathy I feel for Butterfly is heartbreaking. My life is interwoven in the story of Western imperialism in Asia.

My image, "Madame Butterfly sings the multi-verse," is an ode to my birth mother, my ancestors, the women of Asia and to Korea. A series of singing bowls, forming a seed like the spires of DNA, pink bubble-like cells, like cherry blossoms, each universe a different reality, a different dream, perhaps a world that sings with beauty and without such sacrifice.

Eumoni, print from original drawing

The question of my birth mother, the archetype for a fantasy, the woman I dream of becoming, Eumoni; mother.

Grails, mixed media

What is a grail? Christian mythology has imbued the Holy Grail with the power of immortality. It is the cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper. Pagan and gnostic interpretations equate the cup with a flower and with female sexuality. Today, the term is more commonly used as the ultimate consummation of one’s desire. When my son was little his pronunciation of girls was grails. I always wanted to have daughters, but was only given sons.

As a Korean girl, imported to America I was re-named, Amy Doreen, this means beloved gift of god. This moniker was my adoptive mother’s desire and her religious tether.

In the sea of pink, a girl like a flower is brewed for consumption, but the internal organism that she will become will one day break free.

Ruby Slippers, Limited varied print edition

A natural disaster brings Dorothy’s house down. We begin with a death.  And then a blessing of ruby slippers, and safety But Dorothy only desires to go home. Only mildly charmed by the wonder of the world and remorseless for the deaths seen and rendered. Home, the shoes take her back, the price, a dream. How many times after waking will Dorothy have wondered how to get back to OZ? Red shoes, ruby slippers worn as a child. A golden rice pot grains like ripples of time and memory.


Learn more about A.D.’s Illustrations, Prints & Fine Art here. See her work on Redbubble.


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