Exploring Diversity

Richard A. Lou questions and initiates discussions about race and celebrates the multicultural background that the world shares. 

As an increasingly ethnically ambiguous Asian American generation is coming of age, his multiplatform project Stories on My Back combines photography, found objects and sound. Lou oftentimes references his own Chinese and Hispanic heritage as a visual way to introduce the viewer to ideas of cultural identity. 

“I always talk about stories,  I come from that background,” says the San Diego native. 

Lou says his father and mother were wonderful storytellers and that birthed his passion for arts. 

“In actuality that is how I entered into the visual arts. It was from writing because I was interested in writing before I became interested in the visual arts.”

Lou constructs spaces that are meant to evoke ceremonial places where familial stories of loss, migration, assimilation, power, and love are told and shared. He uses the power of storytelling as a means to connect with visitors. Lou uses found objects in his multimedia installation, including a large number of corn husks, referencing his connection to the culture of tamales. 

“Because of his mixed cultural heritage, Richard has unique perspectives,” said Donna McGee, associciate professor for Arts.  

Lou explores his family’s history, which is connected to the history of Mississippi. Lou’s father, Lou Yet Ming, was a “paper son” from Canton Province, China. 

Many Chinese gained entry into the United States by purchasing fraudulent documentation identifying them as American citizens. Several historic events created these documents that would allow individuals to sell and purchase these “paper son” certificates.

Lou’s grandfather grew up in the Mississippi Delta in Coahoma and ran a grocery store during the early 20th Century and into the mid 60s. His goal is to encourage youth to embrace certain values and goals through story telling. 

“I used this story to communicate our dreams and aspirations,” Lou said as he was taking a break from constructing his exhibition. 

As audience members walk through the installations, they hear recorded stories of tales passed down from the artist’s own family, spanning four generations. 

“When audiences come in, they will feel that internal dialogue because we’re never alone.” 

Professor and chair of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Lou’s career includes work as a curator and essayist, and has worked with groups such as the Border Art Workshop and the Georgia Council for the Arts. Lou received his B.A. in Fine Arts from California State University at Fullerton and his M.F.A. in Fine Arts from Clemson University.

“He gives people an opportunity to identify their own history and family stories,” McGee said. 

Lou will be lecturing to students about his work on Sept. 19 at 2:30p.m. in Grambling Hall Auditorium. The reception will be held 4:30- 6p.m. in Dunbar gallery.