Artist Statement

Cynthia Tom uses her work to explore issues of gender, equality and the human mind. Her unique paintings reflect the vibrancy and the passion of the artist. She is passionate about social justice and playing with the accepted norm. A seeker and philosopher about women’s issues, her work is known to some as Cultural Surrealism and often portrays minority women in extraordinary situations. Quote: Laura Kutch, Profiles in Excellence, ABC Channel 7 Painting obsessively since 1994 and working with mixed media, creating large installations since 1991, Cynthia Tom is a self taught artist. She has learned, observed and absorbed technique and style from mentors and teachers over the years, gathering bits and pieces that culminate into her own definitive voice. The daughter of 2nd generation working class Chinese Americans, Cynthia grew up crafting with free, found objects, necessity being the mother of invention and imagination. Her mother’s, Sue Tom and Cynthia’s first love artistically is still the discovery of found objects and the realization of an artwork that is not identifiable as the parts of the sum, but only as the whole. Cynthia’s work explores and uncovers the issues in her life as a woman and as an Asian American. Her work has been a catalyst for personal and social change, insisting on shifts in paradigms, not only for herself, but for those who view and collect her work. Each art work is developed with a vague concept or visual idea, however, paying close attention to her strong aesthetic, beyond her intellectual voice, pushes her creativity to a purely intuitive level. Cynthia strives to keep herself from engaging the art piece with a specific agenda or purpose during its creation. She has profoundly discovered that the narratives embedded in her finished work, at times, predicts her (not too distant future) life issues, providing an image-filled framework that contextualizes her life situations and suggests jump off points for discussion and resolution. Each painting develops like the telling of a story. Most often, Cynthia’s work needs an audience to interpret and complete the meaning. A decidedly feminist viewpoint, her work has affected many lives. The universality of her premise that modern feminism needs to grow from the center of the woman herself is prevalent in all her

Artist Bio

Visual Artist, Cultural Arts and Community Partnership Specialist, Founder and Director of PLACE of HER OWN: An Arts and Healing Residency, member of AAWAA (Asian American Women Artists Association) Cynthia Tom is a visual mixed-media artist, painter and a curator dedicated to cultural and community arts integration for social change. Driven by a passion for social justice for women, she develops art based projects and programs designed to transform women and their communities from the inside out. She believes in curating personal and group art exhibitions that challenge accepted societal and cultural norms on multiple levels. Cynthia’s art is known as a source of inspiration for healing, empowerment and change, fostering dialog and building community in innovative ways. Often described in terms such as cultural and social surrealism, her work has been exhibited at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the De Young Museum, Thoreau Center for Sustainability, SOMArts Cultural Center, Los Gatos Museum of Art, Woman Made Gallery, California Institute of Integral Studies, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Chinese Culture Center, Towers Gallery, to name a few. She lectures on her work, on issues related to women, feminism in the arts and Asian American women in the arts. She has won numerous awards for her art and leadership, including the ABC/KGO Profiles in Excellence leadership award, and was recognized nationally by NPR Radio in 2010 and 2011 and National Association of Professional Women VIP of the Year - 2013. Her art process and pro bono curatorial work with AAWAA has cemented her passion and processes for holding the artistic space for women to heal and transform. Most currently manifested in her long term project, “A Place Of Her Own,” (a culturally informed arts & healing project). Prior to AAWAA, Cynthia specialized in marketing and sales for e-healthcare and pharmaceutical companies and has since left those industries. She began to uncover her artistic voice during that time and has gone onto to paint and create work obsessively since 1994. Cynthia’s art is a subject of discussion in text books, Women Artists’ of the American West, Univ of Purdue, Susan Ressler and a text book Asian American Art in Post-Colonial Times – University of Padua, by Dr. Laura Fantone, Professor SF Art Institute. For both her art and her work in the community, which are inseparable, she has been featured in the SF Chronicle, Psychology Today, the Marin Independent Journal, and on KPFA and KPOO radio. For her own art, she is a seeker and philosopher about issues in her life, her ancestors and the community of women. Painting, mixed media, art installation, and curatorial projects are her means of expression. A third generation Chinese American and native San Franciscan, professional artist for 20+ years, curator for 10+ and working formally to heal community through the arts for 6+ years, she is the founder and director of A Place of Her Own, an arts based healing program for women’s transformation. Cynthia works closely with the participants to artistically answer the question, “If you had a place of your own, what would it be?. Participants learn to tell their stories by defining their beliefs, family patterns and aspirations. She encourages and supports artists work from conception to final installation. Now, Cynthia joins forces with her mentor and healing professional Trinity Ordona PhD to take this concept to a deeper impact level. Cynthia is an artistic truth teller for her community, an Asian American feminist, partnering with women’s advocacy organizations, such as, Asian Pacific Islander (API) Institute on Domestic Violence, Asian Women’s Shelter(AWS), Community Health for Asian Americans (CHAA) and API Legal Outreach. She curates several of AAWAA’s major exhibitions including the recent underCurrents and the Quest for Space, funded by California Art Council, numerous A PLACE OF HER OWN exhibitions funded by CAC, San Francisco Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts, Cheers To Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women in the Arts (also a published anthology) She also launched AAWAA’s Emerging Curators Program that provides opportunities for curators to focus on art created by Asian Pacific Americans the United States. Cynthia Tom is a multi-media visual artist who plays with the accepted norm. Surrealism is the platform for her ideas to ruminate and take form, solutions discovered and color to inspire. She creates dynamic art works and installations that reflect her passion for social justice for women and community healing through art. My paintings are meant to encourage women to own their power and for others to see them out of their traditional context. I believe we as artists have the power to educate deeply and create profound changes in how people perceive their communities, urging the call for social justice, like no other media can. I create work that brings attention to: 1. Chinese women were interned and interrogated at Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. Researching my grandmother was my starting point and where my feminist voice started. 2. Empowerment of the women's movement through societal education about our current state of human trafficking and domestic violence 3. A feminist viewpoint that urges women to heal from the inside out. She creates artistic means for women to recover their voices and change their victim myth. Cynthia believes women have to be ready to take the reins whenever the opportunities arise.


Pro-Bono Artistic, Development and Curatorial director for Asian American Women Artists Association

Founder and Facilitator: A PLACE OF HER OWN: An Arts & Healing Residency and Exhibition

Art Medium -Painting, mixed media, installation, cultural+ social issues, curatorial, arts and healing

Selected Group Exhibitions

2014  EATING CULTURES: Stop Consuming Our Women and Children, AAWAA, SF, CA 2013  A PLACE OF HER OWN mural, 5 Elisabets, Barcelona, Catalunya, Fernando Borras curator 2013 Alchemy, Chapter 2 ,Guest artist for Dia de Los Muertos, Rene Yanez curator, SF, CA 2013  underCurrents, Human Trafficking: A Rich Cultural Tradition, SomArts Cultural Center, SF 2012 How to Earn Your Cloud,Curator Inson Choy for the Museum of Art Los Gatos. 2012 Discards & Variances II, Human Trafficking, Chinese Historical Society, SF, CA 2012 Arts of Pacific Asia, Invitational Contemporary Arts Initiative, Fort Mason, SF, CA 2011 INdiVisible, 3 Artists UC Santa Barbara MC Gallery, Santa Barbara 2011 Women Artists of the Bay Area, Donna Segar juror, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, CA 2011 Discards & Variances, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco 2009-2011 Curator, A PLACE OF HER OWN, AAWAA - De Young Museum, Driftwood, SomArts Cultural Center and 2010-2014 A PLACE - 2 time awardee,SF Arts Commission’s “ Arts and Communities Innovative Partnerships” 2009 5th Annual National Self Portrait Exhibition, Zhou B. Art Center, Chicago.  Juror: Gregg Hertzlieb, 2009 Hybridity-Guest Installation Artist, Rio Yanez Curator, SomArts Cultural Centre, San Francisco 2008 East Meets West, ArtSF Gallery, 49 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2014  How to Earn Your Cloud, Towers Gallery, Cloverdale Ca. 2010-2013 SF Arts Commission -Art in Storefronts, Chinatown Memory Shop- 950 GRANT AVE., SF 2006  Undiscovered Research, Artist in Residence Program, Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Selected Publications and Interviews

2014       Marin IJ – Cynthia Tom’s Long Journey, Vicky Larson. 2012      Chronicle Ovation: Cynthia Tom Finds Her Place, Stephenie Wright Hession 2011      Entering the Picture: Judy Chicago, The Fresno Feminist Art Program, and the Collective Visions of Women Artists (New Directions in American History) edited by Jill Fields. 2011       KPFA Radio – A PLACE OF HER OWN, The Curator,  Veronica Faisant, NPR 2010        NPR Radio- Tell Me More-Tony Cox, Wash, D.C., Women Artists Find Their Place 2011       Traces: Politics and Poetics of post-colonial East-Asian women artists in  California by Laura                         Fantone PhD, University Padua, Italy,  UC  Berkeley for Gender professor Art Institute San Francisco 2008       ABC Channel 7 - Profiles of Excellence, Emerging Leaders in San Francisco 2007       Cheers To Muses, an Anthology of Contemporary Work by Asian American Women. 2003      Women Artists of the American West, Book, e-book curriculum, Susan Ressler PhD., editor, Purdue University Press. 2002      Dreaming with Eyes Wide Open, Artist in Residence at the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums,  SF Arts  

Selected Guest Lectures and Workshops

2009- 2013  Feminism and Asian American women artists, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State Asian American studies lecturer 2012   State of Asian American Women in the Arts, College Art Association, New York 2012    Re-Pairing, re-imagine discarded treasures, sewing, mixed media, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SF 2002-2003    Artist in Residence: The Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum Art Center, SF