Laura Kina

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Laura Kina (born 1973) is an artist, academic and important contributor to the emergent field of Critical Mixed Race Studies. Kina was born in Riverside, CA. and raised in Poulsbo, WA. She moved to Chicago, IL. in 1991 to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied with Michiko Itatani and Ray Yoshida, earning her B.F.A. in 1994. In 2001, Kina received her M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she studied under noted painters Kerry James Marshall and Phyllis Bramson.[1]

Drawing inspiration from popular culture, art history, textile design, historic photographs and personal and family photos, her works focus on the fluidity of cultural difference and the slipperiness of identity. Asian American history and mixed race representations are subjects that run through her work. Colorful pattern fields combined with figurative elements and subtle narratives characterize her paintings.[1][2] Kina is mixed race Asian American. On her father’s side, she is a descendant of Okinawan sugar cane plantation workers from Piihonua on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Her maternal grandmother was Spanish/Basque from Vallejo, CA. and her maternal grandfather was French, English, Irish, and Dutch from Waco, TX.[2]

Laura Kina is Associate Professor of Art, Media, & Design at DePaul University, Vincent DePaul Distinguished Professor, and Director of Asian American Studies. She helped found DePaul’s Asian American Studies program in 2005.[3][4] Her work is represented by Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts in Miami, FL.[5] She currently lives and works in Chicago, IL.

Kina’s work was included in The New Authentics: Artists of the Post-Jewish Generation at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, Chicago, IL in 2007-2008 and the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, MA in 2008.[6][7]


Laura Kina creates art which relates to race, religion, class, family, and identity, more specifically Asian American and mixed race identity. Kina's work typically studies highly personal subjects such as her own family circle, friends, memories, and dreams. It is precisely the intimate relationship Kina has with her subjects that allows her to examine complex social and political issues with great care and detail.

  • Aloha Dreams (2006–2008)- the series comments on issues of immigration/migration, heritage, and orientalist fantasies, through the exploration of color, pattern figuration, and abstraction.[1][8] Kina utilizes Pop Art images, textile design, as well as works of Gaugin, compelling the viewer "to think of the history of Hawai'i and ultimately of the layering of myths and perceptions of place and subject within the painting".[9]
    Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts in Miami, FL. 2007.[5]
  • Loving (2006)- the series was inspired by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which declared race-based legal restrictions on marriage unconstitutional. The artist uses the genre of Portrait to examine mixed race issues. In the words of the artist, "these life-size charcoal portraits of myself along with other mixed race friends surround the viewer in a meditative half circle that simultaneously embraces and confronts the viewer".[1]
    Grand Projects in New Haven, CT 2006.
  • Mishpoche (2005–2007) destroyed- the name "Mishpoche" refers to the Yiddish word for family. The artist relates her personal experiences as she examines her own complex identity. This series' main installation is a 12' by 12' quilt-like area created using 60 smaller paintings (enamel on wood), each depicting a sliver of the artist's identity. These paintings constitute a platform which the viewer is invited to walk on after donning a pair of beach flip flops which line the sides of the installation. This feature enhances the viewer's intimacy with the subject, allowing a closer reflection on the patterns and subjects portrayed. Among the panels are depictions of fabric patterns, a Talith, and a Challah cover.[9]
    Walsh Gallery Chicago, IL. 2005
    Diana Lowenstien Fine Arts Miami, FL. 2007.
  • Hapa Soap Operas (2002–2005)- the term Hapa is Hawaiian and literally means “half”; it has been used colloquially to describe mixed race Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. Kina grew up describing herself as hapa although the term has since come to be contested.[2][8] The series consists of paintings based on photographs the artist took of mixed race Asian Americans from across the country. Some of the paintings are larger-than-life oil paintings, while others appear as actual movie posters that were installed in flashing movie poster marquees.[1]
    Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts 2003
"The Rosenfelds"
Acrylic on Canvas
Refrigerator Portraits 2001
  • Refrigerator Portrait Series (2001)- in this series Kina comments on class, family, and identity, by creating trompe-l’oeil depictions of household refrigerators. The refrigerators are titled after their owners, all members of Kina's extended family. The paintings convey something about their owners' identities through magnets, drawings, and other items appearing on their doors. This series deals with the ever-blurring boundaries between race, religion, and national identity. One of the paintings, titled "The Rosenfelds", depicts a high end Sub-Zero refrigerator made of shining steel and surrounded by custom wood cabinetry. Unlike the other works in this series, this refrigerator’s surface is unadorned. In its stark simplicity, its formal presence invokes the work of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.[7][10] “While the variety of adornments on the Kina-Aronson fridge indicates a multiplicity of identities, the interiors of the refrigerators, and, by extension, the inner lives of their owners, remain closed to the viewer”.[11]
    Spertus Museum, Chicago, IL. 2007-2008
    Rose Art Museum Waltham. MA. 2008

Asian American Studies[edit]

Kina is Associate Professor of Art, Media, and Design, Vincent DePaul Distinguished Professor, and is also the director of Asian American Studies at the school, a program which she helped develop and establish in 2005. Kina teaches courses on Asian American Arts and Culture at DePaul.[12] Kina has also been involved with Asian American arts organizations such as DestinAsian (1992–1995), Foundation for Asian American Independent Media (1995-), Asian American Artists Collective-Chicago and Project A (2001-), and the Diasporic Asian Arts Network (2009-).[13][14]

Critical Mixed Race Studies[edit]

Kina is collaborating with Wei Ming Dariotis, Assistant Professor Asian American Studies San Francisco State University, and Camilla Fojas, Associate Professor and Chair Latin American and Latino Studies DePaul University, to found a national association for Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS).[15] She helped created the biannual Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference held at DePaul University in 2010, which brings together over 400 scholars from across the U.S., Canada, U.K., and other countries.[16] Kina is a community arts advisory member of the Mavin Foundation’s Mixed Heritage Center.[17] Kina and Dariotis produced a book and curatorial project titled "War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art" (University of Washington Press) in 2013.[18] Kina teaches a course on Mixed Race Art & Identity at DePaul University.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d e [1] Laura Kina- Artist's Website
  2. ^ a b c Personal interview with the artist.
  3. ^ [2] DePaul University Department of Asian American Studies
  4. ^ [3] The DePaul University Asian American Studies' Wiki Site
  5. ^ a b [4] Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts
  6. ^ [5] Vider, Stephen. "Cultural Evolution- What Exactly is "Post-Jewish" Art?", Jul. 2008
  7. ^ a b Boris, Staci. The New Authentics: Artists of the Post-Jewish Generation. Spertus Press, Chicago 2007. pp. 40-2, 92-5.
  8. ^ a b [6] Article- Elkjer, April. "Hapa Visual Artist Explores Culture and Identity" NichiBei Times, Jun. 2008
  9. ^ a b [7] Interview- "Painting Paradise. Artist Laura Kina's Aloha Dreams", Asiance Magazine.
  10. ^ [8] Article- "Cultural Evolution- What Exactly is "Post-Jewish" Art?"
  11. ^ Geller-Nelson, Sarah. The New Authentics, Exhibition Catalog
  12. ^ [9] DePaul University Department of Art
  13. ^ [10] Foundation for Asian American Independent Media
  14. ^ [11] Project A- an Artist Collaborative. Asian American Collective
  15. ^ [12] Prof. Wei Ming Dariotis
  16. ^
  17. ^ [13] MAVIN Foundation- Mixed Heritage Center
  18. ^
  19. ^

West, Cornel. "The New Cultural Politics of Difference", The Humanities as Social Technology. October, Vol. 53 (Summer, 1990), pp. 93–109. Pub. MIT Press