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A silver-white Toyota Corolla '82 that was a lifeline to my family in resettling in San Diego.

My parents' resettlement experience was difficult, demoralizing, and full of struggle and hardship. They are refugees from Laos as a result of the Secret War and came to San Diego in February 1987. The English my parents were taught in the Thailand refugee camps proved to be little to no aid for my parents, as the English spoken in the US sounded completely different to the English my parents learned. For two years they struggled with poverty, the lack of a car and the knowledge of how to drive one, and difficulty speaking English. They had to depend on sponsors and others to transport them to work, welfare, and medical appointments. After those two years, my family managed to save money to buy an old and used silver Toyota Corolla ‘82 that would become a lifeline for them. My father became the first to learn how to drive as a car opened many more opportunities, saved time, and provided them a sense of stability and independence.

This is one of my first few art pieces I’ve created and so I didn’t really have a specific artistic creation process. The car was ordinary to any onlooker other than my family, but to them simply having the means to more easily navigate their day-to-day life in San Diego made it precious to them. For the content of this work, I felt melancholic towards my family’s history and sought to portray that with the color choices. I worked on the background prior to the car because I wanted to set that mood first. I used the dark colors of the building to contrast the silver-white color of the car, and I used a muddier blue to portray a foggier sky and to contribute to the general lighting of the piece. Allowing myself to explore my ideas for the art piece that I wanted to create for this project gave me a stronger understanding of the artistic process. The name for the art piece was more so me having some fun wordplay with my mother tongue, Hmong. To elaborate, “tsheb” translates to “car” and the “b” at the end was replaced with an “82,” because “8” looks like a “B” and the make of the car was ‘82.

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