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Chinese Artist Aims to Correct Omission in US History Books

Zhi Lin
Courtesy Tacoma Art Museum

In 1885, rioters fueled by sentiment that Chinese were taking jobs from Whites, chased an estimated 700 Chinese immigrants from Tacoma near Seattle.

The mayor, fire chief and other city officials lead the charge.

It’s a little known incident that has ramifications even today. Tacoma remains the only major West coast port city without a Chinatown.

Now according to Crosscut, a solo art exhibition by Zhi Lin at the Tacoma Art Museum hopes to bring a light to a dark period in the city’s history.

“I don’t have a style;” Lin said to Crosscut. “I have a method. That’s because what I do is engage with history by telling stories. Each story is different and needs to be told in the way that best expresses itself.”

Courtesy Tacoma Art Museum
Courtesy Tacoma Art Museum

Lin’s art is inspired by the lack of recognition given to the early Chinese immigrants and their work building the Transcontinental Railroad.

The master combines painting, video projection, and sound to highlight both their accomplishments and omission from US history books. His piece Shipment to China includes 100 bronze boxes sitting on an antique train car to represent the hundreds of Chinese rail workers who died building the Transcontinental Railroad.

“I felt and realized that landscape painting has an unparalleled immediacy and accessibility to an audience, and using a certain style as a conceptual construct or form can evoke the connections between different historical realities,” he told the museum.

The exhibition from Lin at the Tacoma Art Museum, just an hour outside Seattle, will be on display through February 18.

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