Comeback Artists

Q&A with Anh Bui, Versoul and Anand Vedawala

APAture 2019: DECLARE is just around the corner, opening this Friday, October 4 with this year’s visual arts showcase, BOUNDLESS. The festival itself runs through October 27 with 1-2 events each weekend covering disciplines from visual arts, music, book arts, literary arts, film and performing arts. This year, we are excited to highlight a few artists who have shown in APAture in the last couple of years as showcase artists and whom, this year, have been selected to be our featured artists! 

Anh Bui, featured artist for BOUNDLESS, showed a painting in the visual arts showcase for APAture 2017: Unravel. Last year, he also went on to organize the festival as a member on the general planning committee for APAture 2018: RE:place

Hip hop artist, Versoul, headliner for this year’s LIFE IS YOUR BIRTHRIGHT, performed under her former rap name, Babii Cris, at APAture 2017’s music showcase. 

This year’s book arts showcase, EMBODY, will also feature Anand Vedawala, who tabled his zines at last year’s APAture 2018 book arts showcase.

Over the past 20 years, APAture has created an ecosystem where artists like Anh, Versoul and Anand can inspire, empower and thrive. Read more in our Q&A with them to learn how the festival has impacted their artist career and get some insight into what they’ll be ‘declaring’ at this year’s festival!

Anh Bui. Photo courtesy of the artist. Learn more about Anh’s work at  anhbuiart.com

Anh Bui. Photo courtesy of the artist. Learn more about Anh’s work at anhbuiart.com

How have you been able to grow as an artist since you last showed in APAture? How has the KSW community impacted your growth?

Anh Bui: In the past, I thought that a "successful artist" produces a lot of work and exhibits them often at places like the MoMA. Despite knowing that that this concept of "success" was something I internalized from my art education, cultural institutions, capitalism etc., I still couldn't let it go. I was stressed out about not being in the studio enough, while exhibiting in places where I feel out of place. Connecting with APAture/KSW in 2017, seeing to their programs, and talking personally to their organizers and artists, really helped affirm that I'm not valued by how much art I produce, that I deserve to feel comfortable in a space, and that I should reserve my energy for those that matter most to me

Versoul: I’ve grown by learning to trust myself and my own process of evolving and growing through life while making conscious self-improvements to be able to maintain my inner peace and happiness, learning from my mistakes. KSW has impacted my growth by believing in me and providing a platform in which I can share my music and my story. For connecting me with other amazing talented Asian Pacific Island - American Artists in the Bay Area community, and by doing so, they continue to empower and help me to become more proud to be mixed with the ethnicities I am: Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Italian and Salvadorian.

Anand Vedawala: APAture helped me be more aware of the creative APA communities in the Bay Area, whereas before I knew them only as being a small part of the zine community. I realized we aren’t relegated to just one section, we are everywhere and we’re making powerful works. Since showing at APAture 2018, I’ve been inspired to curate South Asian art shows, readings and performance events, particularly focusing on queer and trans South Asians.

Listen to Versoul’s Soulrise album on Spotify:  bit.ly/versoulmusic  / Photo courtesy of the artist.

Listen to Versoul’s Soulrise album on Spotify: bit.ly/versoulmusic / Photo courtesy of the artist.

Has your artistic career or the outlook on it changed since then? How so?

Anh: I've been much more comfortable disconnecting from spaces and people that are outside of my communities and comfort zones. My practice has become a lot more therapeutic--as a medium to process and document my feelings. A part of my practice has also been to support my friends with their practices with whatever skills I possess. In sum, I make art for myself and as a way to connect with people within my communities nowadays, and I've been a lot happier for it.

Versoul: In such a positive way, because I've just been through a lot of life / family / relationship changes that really are grounding me and helping me to learn more about myself and about others, and life in general. I'm going through some things that are definitely giving me a reality check and helping me to realize my blessings and this gift of life that I have, and the gift I have to use my voice and create art and to tell my story. I'm learning to be more mindful, grateful, and especially loving to myself, and I continue to learn that every day when I'm faced with any new challenge on the inside or outside.

Anand: My artistic career has transformed to focus more on creating space for others instead of on myself. Though, at this point, I seem to have taken a break on both fronts because I’m now a full-time first grade teacher for San Francisco Unified School District. Managing a classroom of 6-year-olds, working on my teaching credential and leading San Francisco Zine Fest takes up a lot of my energy, so I haven’t had as much time for other event organizing and writing as I would like.

How would you describe your feelings headlining as Featured Artist in your showcase this year?

Anh: I feel incredibly privileged to be the Featured Artist this year. I'm so excited to be a part of the conversations at APAture about Asian and Pacific Islander histories, legacies, and futures. At the same time, my work is so intertwined with, and inspired by, folks around me that it does feel a bit weird being "featured."

Versoul: Surprised for sure, but all in all, very grateful!

Anand: I was surprised, thrilled and humbled, in that order, when I found out I would be headlining the Book Arts showcase. As I write this, I’m feeling a little nervous. I hope to exceed, or at the very least meet, the audience’s expectations. 

Anand Vedawala. Image courtesy of the artist. Learn more about Anand’s work at  www.anandvedawala.com

Anand Vedawala. Image courtesy of the artist. Learn more about Anand’s work at www.anandvedawala.com

The theme for this year's APAture is DECLARE. How, in your work, do you see yourself making declarations? 

Anh: In my paintings, I am visiting versions of myself that are unbound from social constructs. In exhibiting them, I make declarations for the limitlessness of my existence.

Versoul: In my work I make declarations by creating music that speaks from my heart and soul, being vulnerable and making declarations of self-love, my learning process, my goals, inspiration and infinite more! I declare that I am grateful for this life and I will reach my goals and continue to make a positive impact on the world with my music and with who I am, healing those in need and being healed in healing <3

Anand: I first started making zines as a way to do something creative, something apart from my work as a civil engineer. The first few years didn’t feel like declarations, they were more like forms of escape. It wasn’t until I set out to write about my mother, my insecurities, my queerness, and my experiences as a brown immigrant that I felt I was sharing something with others, that I was declaring and validating my existence. These declarations, these moments of vulnerability, surprisingly, boosted my self-esteem, they helped me accept and understand myself. With each work, I declare a part of my culture, my history, myself, and in doing so I live unapologetically as a queer brown immigrant in America.

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We are so excited to feature Anh Bui, Versoul and Anand Vedawala in APAture’s 20th Anniversary Festival. Don’t miss the opening this Friday, October 4, 6-10PM, where we’ll also honor and present our annual Focus Award to the original planning committee that created the foundations for APAture back in 1999.

LIFE IS YOUR BIRTHRIGHT (music showcase) also occurs this Saturday, October 5, 9PM-1AM at Hotel Utah.

EMBODY (book arts showcase) will happen Sunday, October 13, 1-4PM at American Bookbinders Museum.

RSVP and get your tickets + festival passes to all APAture 2019: DECLARE events here!

Jason Bayani