As machines hum and shirts hang waiting to be pressed, Ummah sits patiently at the front of the shop and inspects blemishes on her clients’ clothes. Suddenly, the sensors from the door trigger a ring and a customer enters through the parting steam that lingers in the air. He sets large bags in front of Ummah, which she carefully examines and pulls clothes out into a basket. Counting each item, she pauses at a delicate silk dress and shouts, “yobo!”. Concerned, her husband hastily squeezes from the back through a thicket of plastic covered clothes. He looks at the dress in her hand and gives a nod, reassuring her that it needs to be treated with extra care. She smiles and bows at the customer to extinguish any concern and continues to count while setting the dress aside. Her husband slips back to his station and utters in Korean, “Aigoo, it’s going to be a busy week”.
My parents manage a dry cleaning business and as immigrants who speak limited English, they have overcome many obstacles. From language barriers to racial prejudices, they navigate unfamiliar territory with their traditions and hospitality. Respecting their ability to assimilate, my paintings of layered acrylic media, drawings, and laundry tags combine dry cleaning imagery with motifs inspired by my heritage. The series celebrates the experiences I have witnessed as a first-generation Korean American and investigates how I perceive my family in relation to the self.