ASIA WONG | OBSERVATION | West Marin
Asia Wong lives in a light-filled, yellow-walled studio in Point Reyes Station, where she has lived for the past two years. Her days begin with a morning walk through the surrounding wetlands, followed by a breakfast of poached eggs and toast. Her dwelling is simple and unfussy; its adornments—a framed illustration by friend Rob Moss Wilson, a conical fid by Ido Yoshimoto on the dining table, lunar calendars, a colorful copy of WET magazine—are mementos, relics through which the narrative of Asia’s life is woven, ciphers of an intimate language spoken with friends and artists. After all, most of these art objects were gifts—gestures of gratitude and acknowledgments of meaningful encounters.
Asia, who is a maker liaison for Edition Local as well as an artist and dancer in her own right, plays the special role of a connector in the West Marin community, spending a good portion of her time visiting artists in studios, talking to them and learning about their art, weaving networks between various artistic communities, and collaborating with artists to strengthen their crafts and businesses. This is not a role one can force her way into. To be a connector—a locus of relationships—is to be trusted. This takes time, effort, and genuine care.
“Anyone who spends time with Asia in Point Reyes Station senses this immediately. Her love of people is relentless and persistent and natural, mostly because you sense that she genuinely wants to know who you are, that you are, as every person is, a mystery.”
Anyone who spends time with Asia in Point Reyes Station senses this immediately. Her love of people is relentless and persistent and natural, mostly because you sense that she genuinely wants to know who you are, that you are, as every person is, a mystery. She credits her affability to to her nomadic childhood—which shuffled her between various Western locales and desert towns, among them Idyllwild, California; Taos, New Mexico; Boulder, Colorado; and North County, San Diego. “In warmer climates, you have to extend yourself,” she says. “My interest in people is genuine, not transactional, and I think people can sense that.” Moving so often, she had to learn how to make friends quickly. She learned how to disarm others with an unexpected warmth, the kind that is rare among strangers.
This social practice—of caring for artists, especially—reflects a key idea in Asia’s art: how to be sensitive and relational in a way that brings comfort to the marginalized aspects of human nature. “I feel like I’ve lived outside of convention since I was born, before I was born,” she says, referencing “outsider art,” a term coined by art critic Roger Cardinal to describe art that is derived not from convention, context, or culture, but from the depths of one’s own self and expressive impulses. “I’m interested in marginalized behavior and marginalized people and the marginalized aspects of humans,” says Asia. It is those parts of ourselves, rejected by society, and thought unworthy of recognition that Asia believes contain a secret beauty and genius.
Of course, finding those secret parts requires the work of excavation and a return to a kind of wild innocence. Asia’s study of dance, based on improvisational and somatic techniques from the 70s, is one way she digs into the subconscious mind. She describes her movements as a hybrid of function and expression, “everyday movements mixed with primitive access,” she says. “It brings back a sense of wildness that I crave in all my experiences and allows creativity to spill out of alternate states of mind.” This somatic practice is, at its heart, a dialogue with the body, an examination of one's own awareness, desire, sensation, and response—an exploration of the occult language of one’s physicality—“Honestly it would take me three days to explain,” says Asia. But at a time when technology urges us to accelerate—to connect across greater distances with less intimacy, to live in a disembodied cyberspace—, expressive movement of any kind that integrates the mind and the spirit and the body is a contrapuntal therapy.
Someday Asia hopes to start an artist residency program, where she would curate music and dance while collaborating with other creative people. The private practice of art, after all, can be extremely isolating—and Asia seems to know this, deeply, intuitively. But the sum total of her studio visits, her relationships within West Marin, and her study of therapeutic and somatic practices is her dedication to building a community, which is, perhaps, the balm that makes existence a little less lonely.