The Wing Luke Museum’s Where Beauty Lies is a wonderful exhibit that showcases the Asian-American perspective of beauty through various mediums of artwork, such as artifacts, videos, photographs, and posters. The multitude of mediums kept the exhibit engaging: it interested me to see all the different interpretations of beauty. I loved looking at the fashionable articles of clothing from different cultures, videos of hair and makeup, and photographs of stunning models. One of my favorite pieces, two photographs of a woman with short black hair throwing her head back in laughter, represents how happiness is valuable and beautiful. Her joy makes the woman look approachable and appealing—two qualities that most people strive to achieve. Beauty is a mental state rather than a physical one.
The exhibit shows how the beauty standards that the media sets up are largely unachievable and unrealistic, especially for people of color. By showing stories about Asian-Americans accepting themselves and their culture, the exhibit inspires viewers to break free of these standards and accept themselves. One Indian woman speaks about how she decided to wear traditional Indian clothing for her wedding, describing how the clothing made her feel comfortable and empowered. She learned to never forget her identity nor try to hide it. Similarly, one room has movie posters with culturally diverse casts hanging from the ceiling. By featuring these movies, the exhibit sends a positive message about the trajectory of widening beauty standards and cultural acceptance—two things that have been historically been left out of Hollywood. One of the big influencers of cultural trends is movies, so seeing films representational of the Asian-American community inspired me to not feel limited by my race.
To set up a discussion about non-white cultures wanting to resemble white people, the exhibit gives the example of beauty products such as skin whitening creams. Specifically, the packaging for an Indian beauty product was rejected because the women on the package looked “too Indian.” The bias the beauty industry has against non-white races sets people up to feel ashamed about their culture—a mindset that the exhibit strives to change in the viewer.
Overall, I thought this was a beautiful exhibit. To aid the viewer in constructing their thoughts, there are interactive stations that ask questions, allowing visitors to write down their thoughts and put them on display. I liked seeing everyone’s opinions, as it made the exhibit feel more personal and human. My favorite station asked about the beauty standards that I have for myself. After writing them down, I could throw them into a fake fire. I thought it was therapeutic to do something physical to get rid of these negative standards.
Being half Asian and half white, the exhibit’s message about accepting oneself speaks to me. I have always felt ashamed of my Asian culture. When I was younger, my best friend told me that she thought she was ugly because she looked too Asian; ever since that moment, I thought I was ugly because I was Asian. But after viewing this exhibit, I am one step closer to proving myself wrong. I have always felt torn between my two cultures, and going through this exhibit helped me see the value in both of them. Seeing all the stories about people becoming more comfortable with themselves by accepting their culture empowered me. I highly recommend this exhibit to everyone, especially Asian-Americans looking to find their inner beauty.
Where Beauty Lies is on display at the Wing Luke Museum, from October 11, 2018 - September 19, 2021. For event info see HERE.