Featuring Siyan Wong’s paintings of three canners who live and collect cans in the Lower East Side and Chinatown, this exhibition celebrates the immigrant spirit for a better life and questions blatant inequality and our collective responsibility for our aging population.
Three immigrants. Three dreams. Three human stories.
Choi Yee, a 98-year old Chinese woman, has been collecting cans and bottles probably for the last two decades. I met her while jogging every Saturday morning at 7:00 am, when she was usually going through more than 20 bags of recycling from my building in search of cans and bottles. Fragile but clearly determined to be financially independent, Choi Yee inspired me to start painting as a way to understand my admiration for her and my disgust for a society that only compensates people like Choi Yee at five cents a can.
Ah Xim is in her mid to late 60’s. A woman who is proud, hardworking, and generous in spirit, we met when I was beginning to get to know the canners in my neighborhood. She is friendly and her unassuming intelligence was revealed through her sincere curiosity to know and understand. Ah Xim immigrated to the United States in her mid- 40’s. She was a nurse for about two decades before immigrating. After arriving in NYC, she worked as a homecare attendant until she retired in 2019, and started canning.
He Ping is in his 70’s. A recent immigrant, he washed dishes by hand in a Chinese restaurant in New Jersey for about five years until he was let go. Since then, he and his wife have lived with their daughter and her family in the Lower East Side. He Ping scavenges raw materials such as metal and other salvageable materials in exchange for cash. He also collects and redeems cans and bottles.
For more on their stories, please visit the exhibition.
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