Descendent Threads, Part 3 of 3 April 10th, 2019 posted by Val Katagiri

Contributed by special guest artist, Lynn Yarne

A detail of the Altar

Many of my stories of Portland Old Town/Chinatown/Japantown are ones that are second- or third-hand, and it is difficult to pin chronology, objectionable happenings, and local mythology/community memory. The stories are of resilience and community, of darkness and joy, of mystery. The piece that was included in Descendant Threads is an altar to these stories. Old Town is a very haunted place, but I like to think of it as full of guiding spirits.

I am a fourth-generation Chinese Japanese American. Both of my grandmothers grew up in Old Town, nearly right across the street from each other. In times of darkness, I have found power in the stories of my predecessors: circumstances that they were dealt and sacrifices they made created exponential opportunities for me and people of my generation. My great-grandmother was a mother of four. Her husband died of infection when my grandma was young and she used her skill sets to do whatever she could to take care of her children and children in the neighborhood. She was said to be able to cook anything she could smell or taste. Her mother, thinking Western culture was the devil, prohibited Western anything – and my great-grandmother taught herself to read and write in English in addition to Cantonese. In my altar she is portrayed as the 1000 Hand Kwan Yin, a favorite deity of my grandmother, holding a book, a peach, a sewing needle.

Still from an animation inside the altar with Eva (my paternal grandmother)

Eva, my father’s mother, always laughed. From her I learned about joy and levity in life; her Chinese name meant contented moon. Fumi, my mother’s mother, taught me to work hard, listen, and gaman. In my altar they are formalized as gods, exponential love and labor, guides.

The altar piece is still in progress. It is a project that asks me to continue seeking wisdom from the world around me, to actively acknowledge pedagogy and reverence within each other’s spirit. Throughout this process, I’ve had opportunity to connect to amazing sources of inspiration, stories from Chinatown and Nihonmachi elders, mentorship from artist Chisao Hata, and Descendant Threads artists Horatio Law, Ellen George, and Roberta Wong.

Bio: Lynn Yarne is an artist and educator from Portland, Oregon. She works within animation and collage to address generational narratives and histories. She is curious about community, participatory works, magic, and rejuvenation. Lynn holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MAT from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She currently makes art projects for and about the public education system.




Lynn Yarne: Stories from Nihonmachi
March 7, 2019 – May 5, 2019
at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, 121 NW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97209

Portland artist and educator Lynn Yarne explores the history and culture of Portland’s Japantown/Chinatown district through the stories of nine elders in her multi-media exhibit, Stories from Nihonmachi.

Working with family members and former Old Town residents, Yarne gathered stories, images, and auditory recordings to create a multi-media altar piece. Her work explores community, memory, and the power that comes from recognizing the strength, resilience, and sacrifice of one’s ancestors.

In conjunction with Yarne’s exhibition, Grant High School Digital Media students will present re-imagined logos from Portland Japantown businesses, sports teams and organizations of the past.


More info:

Phone:  503-224-1458