Kianni Ferris: Daifuku. On display at ArtsWestchesters gallery

Artist Profile: Kiani Ferris

What is a border? And what does it mean to cross one? ArtWestchester’s Crossing Borders: Revisited exhibition aims to answer this question through the perspective of 15 third-generation immigrant artists in America.

Kianni Ferris: Tamago. On display at ArtsWestchesters gallery

Exhibited in the show are three photographs taken by Kiani Ferris with a toy camera and then blown up to massive proportions. As a child, Ferris, who has roots in Japan, would find refuge in her copy of YUBISASHI JAPAN: English Edition (The Original “POINT-AND-SPEAK” Phrasebook) by Toshiya Enomoto. The guide is the sort a tourist might pick up on their trip to Japan. Ideal for those who have little to no Japanese language skills, the book uses various pictures and pre-written words and phrases to effectively communicate with a Japanese speaker. For Ferris, the guide brought her closer to a place she didn’t have a way to visit.

“There wasn’t really like a reason for [my family] to visit Japan. I think knowing that, I would sort of [use the book to] find solace, or longing to sort of maybe visit this place one day,” says Ferris. “I kind of latched on to that book, and I kind of like, romanticized the pages.”

This phrasebook would be her focus for her toy camera photographs. Ferris recalls how, as a child, the photos of food especially captured her interest: “I really wanted to eat them…[there was] something about them being presented in the book, printed in beautiful colors, that I was really attracted to.” Despite eating the very food in the pictures often, something about the pictures just drew her in.

Kianni Ferris: Umeboshi. On display at ArtsWestchesters gallery

For her exhibited series, she revisited these photos from her childhood. “I’m interested in abstracting these tangible objects or materials and arranging them in novel ways; the sort of thing that renders their forms ambiguous,” says Ferris. To achieve this, she snapped pictures of the pictures in the book and blew them up to massive proportions compared to their original size.

Through this process, she explores how memories from childhood tend to distort as people grow up. “Returning to those images as an adult, with a child’s camera and taking these pictures, kind of renders the images blurry and unclear and abstract. And in that way, it’s kind of like I’m consuming them in a different way.”

Ferris reflects: “I’m thinking a little bit of the exhibition name ‘Crossing Borders,’ and [it reminds me of what’s called] ‘desire packs.’ For instance in a park… when people walk a certain way so many times, it sort of naturally creates the path. And keeping that in mind, it’s like…maybe the border never existed.”

Photo credit: Kiani Ferris: Daifuku, Tamago and Umeboshi (courtesy of the artist).

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