GLENDALE, Calif. — Chinese-American artist Connie D.K. Lane embraces her identity through her work.
She describes her art as an intersection of memories of growing up in Hong Kong and her perception of the present.
Normally, Lane doesn’t have a concept when creating. She just allows her creativity to flow. But when the COVID-19 virus began changing the world, it also changed her art.
In the last year, Lane created several pieces at home influenced by the pandemic, like a sculpture replicating the COVID-19 structural diagram. She also created a bamboo paper partition with circular links tied together like a chain that she calls "Together We Stand."
"As an artist, I’m a really sensitive and emotional person," said Lane.
Her latest project isn’t hanging in her home, but rather on display at Glendale Central Library as part of the city's Arts and Culture Commission "Art Happens Anywhere" COVID-19 relief initiative.
The exhibit, "15,000 and More: A Plethora of Light and Darkness," is an art installation of over 15,000 Chinese ingots which visually represents each person lost from COVID-19 in L.A. County.
“Death is a very touchy subject to me,” said Lane, whose mother died 25 years ago. She couldn’t get to China for the memorial service.
Lane can relate to the stories of families watching their loved ones die alone in hospitals with COVID-19.
“When I fold [ingots], I think about my mother all the time, and I think of those people [who died of COVID} that I don’t know," said Lane.
The ingot concept is based on the Chinese ancestral worship of deceased relatives. Joss paper — also called ghost money — is folded and then burned in a special ceremony as an offering to ancestors in the afterlife.
Lane started folding back in September, at that point in the pandemic about 6,000 L.A. County residents had died. But as the death toll continued to rise, she needed help. The community picked up folding kits from the library and learned how to make the ingots from Lane's how-to video.
By the time the exhibit was installed, over 20,000 people had died. Lane believes being an artist during this time is a privilege.
"I use my [art] as a tool to express my feelings, my concerns about the world, and hopefully I can bring awareness," she said.
Although she doesn't identify as a political artist, Lane added that when she feels strongly about something, it reflects in her work.
The exhibit will be on display through June 30. The library isn’t open to the public, so the best view is from the front windows of the library at night.