On 4th of July weekend, in a small, predominantly Caucasian community, Mike Han will open Gyopo, a site-specific exhibition to illuminate the silent struggle of being Asian in America through his personal journey as a natural-born US citizen with Korean heritage.
Gyopo is a term used to describe the Korean diaspora and their descendants. The term isn’t a pejorative, but it can have a negative connotation when used by Koreans. Mike is the first to be born in America on his mother’s side, whose family immigrated into Detroit’s Cass Corridor during the early 70’s.
Mike has struggled to develop a positive sense of self and identity as he spent his formative years trying to assimilate with white culture. Han desired to be white and made great efforts to distance himself from other Asians, even made fun of them to fit in. Han’s struggle to develop self-confidence and a sense of identity as a Korean-American was exacerbated by his first and only visit to Korea, where he was seen as an American and looked down upon because he couldn’t speak the language.
Gyopo is a cathartic body of work that explores Han’s seemingly inescapable sense of loneliness and lack of acceptance that culminates in an effort to define, celebrate, and identify as a Korean-Detroiter.
Most of the work for Gyopo will be created at Lakeside Inn which is just minutes from Stevensville, where Han lived during his formative years. Stevensville and Marcellus (where the gallery is located) are strikingly similar in population and are both about 95% Caucasian, and less than .5% Korean.