My father was an army veteran turned slum-landlord who managed Section-8 housing. In my adolescence, I would often work with him fixing, repairing and painting throughout the weekends and summers in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles.

In these homes, tenants left door-sized holes in their walls, chicken bones scattered the crust-carpeted floors, drug paraphernalia sought refuge between urine-stained mattresses while torn pornographic magazines lined the hallways.

When I began to look at art and photography, Jeff Wall’s The Destroyed Room brought me back to that place. Diane Arbus’ portraits were its tenants and Robert Frank's America provided the landscape to this allegory.

My work is continuously reflecting these ideas and images of race and class, which are reciprocal to my own experiences. A recurring theme of mine is to reveal subject matter that is not widely discussed, but I feel necessary to be addressed.

In Salon Des Refusés, Smoke-filled trains, people sleeping on newspaper-lined floors and men squatting while sucking on cigarettes look at you in despair. Each corridor you pass is a vignette of Chinese hell.

Social Studies is a series of portraits in Downtown Los Angeles where I explore American myths about race, class, wealth, poverty and the disenfranchised.

Salon Des Refusés (Exhibition of the Rejected) is a multi-tiered series about China, which covers the topics of migrant workers, ethnic minorities, trains, modernization, rural villages and the documentation of my ancestral village.

Art Center College of Design, BFA

photo: heather sten