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Cheryll Leo-Gwin

County: King County




Grants for Artist Projects (GAP) 2022
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Grants for Artist Projects 2014
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Cheryll Leo-Gwin is 4th generation Chinese American visual artist. She was born in Canada during the US Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943) and Canada’s Chinese Exclusion Act (1923-1947) when Chinese were forbidden immigration in both countries.  

Her Chinese American father and Chinese Canadian mother married in 1939 and laws of the lands forced them to live apart in their respective countries. American by birthright, Cheryll was denied American citizenship. The family was united in Seattle in 1945 and her citizenship was eventually restored…discrimination continued.  

Raised in Seattle’s Beacon Hill, a then all white community, she wanted to find out what it meant to be Chinese. She went to China to find out. For over a decade she traveled to China collecting oral histories from women who used art to survive the Cultural Revolution. She collected oral histories from Chinese American women who fought for civil rights through their art.  

5,000 years ago began the Chinese Civilization. The patriarchal society never recorded their women’s births, deaths, or marriages. They remained anonymous. In many societies women continue to be abused, neglected, forgotten, murdered, and even unnamed. Cheryll’s artwork combines this ancient history with the more recent Chinese American journey in paintings, prints, sculpture and video. 

Her work is included in numerous public art and private collections: Japanese American Remembrance Trail INS Building, Seattle; Albuquerque Courthouse Building, Albuquerque NM; Washington State Arts Commission, City of Bellevue; King County; Metro, Seattle; World Financial Center, NYC; Tacoma Art Museum; City of Seattle; Hopelink, Bellevue WA; Barbara O. Rockefeller, NYC; Anne Hauberg, Seattle WA and others. 

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Image: Peggy Piacenza, 2024 Fellowship Recipient

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