PAMLA is excited to share our PAMLA 2022 Conference Art commissioned from California artist Faye Kwan, a piece entitled “The Library of Los Angeles.” We are happy to announce her artwork is featured on our merch store, which also includes the donated artworks of Frank Quitely (PAMLA 2019) and Nanette Hilton (PAMLA 2021) from our previous two conferences.
In “The Library of Los Angeles,” Kwan references Los Angeles, the site of the 2022 PAMLA conference, through images of palm trees, freeways, insects, a fantastical library, and the cityscape. Following our conference theme of “The Geographies of the Fantastic and the Quotidian,” she has included the Jimson weed (Datura stramonium), a beautiful but poisonous flower, and its seed pods, which are native to California. It’s believed that the plant spread globally through “explorers of the new world.” It’s also been referenced as “the Devil’s Weed.” She also includes caterpillars of the Pacific Green Sphinx and Clark Sphinx moths, which are pollinators of Jimson weed. Kwan showcases these as awesome and fantastic, as though these smaller, more mundane creatures are overlooked and unappreciated.
Kwan’s piece evokes the idea of travel, the passage of time, and road narratives through images of freeways, insect metamorphosis, plant cycles, circular forms, and the movement from sunset, to night, to sunrise. Moreover, by including palm trees, a species mostly foreign to the region, and the Jimson weed, a native and “witchy,” if derided species, her work hints at the complex history of Los Angeles, with its settler colonialism, border crossings, migration, and transformation of what was desert into fertile, if artificially-so, ground. Through the work’s juxtaposition of interior/exterior spaces, Kwan’s work elicits difficult questions as to what is valuable and what is not, what should be seen and what remain hidden. The ornate library at the center of the image, evocative of a labyrinth out of Jorge Luis Borges, came out of PAMLA’s dedication to the creation, advancement, and diffusion of knowledge of ancient and modern languages, literatures, and cultures. Those mysterious figures in the library demonstrate introspection, connection, and a desire to learn—and thus signify the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association and the scholars making the journey to the PAMLA conference at UCLA.
Faye Kwan was born and raised in the Bay Area of California. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Art at UC Irvine, and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership with a focus on social justice at UC Berkeley. In 2007, she began working with youth as a group home counselor, where she fell in love with providing residents with a stable and nurturing home. She felt most inspired when residents realized their potential and felt safe enough to hope and dream. This led her to become a Special Education teacher. She has taught around the Bay Area and feels passionate about ensuring that all students have the tools needed to reach their goals and gain access to higher education. In her spare time, she loves to be surrounded by nature, spend time with friends, and eat delicious food.