Daddy and I is a series of photos of white American adoptive fathers with their Chinese adopted daughters by artist O. Zhang. My first thought was immediately that this was inappropriate, especially the one photograph of the father and daughter on a bed. I couldn’t help but feel this was pushing it, especially with the proliferation of p o r n o g r a p h y involving A s i a n women and children with white men available on the internet.
This was from one of the reviewers of O. Zhang’s art. Kathy Battista writes:
Zhang’s most recent series again reflects her own peripatetic experiences in a life that has seen her displaced from her homeland. In Daddy and I the artist creates images of young Chinese girls, in this case living in America. The girls are pictured with their adopted American fathers, creating implausibly intriguing couples in the photographs. At first glance the photographs seem almost inappropriate to viewers who are conditioned by the media to be suspect about middle-aged men and young children. For one doesn’t immediately read these as photographs of fathers and daughters. The racial incongruity of the couple highlights our own assumptions about what constitutes traditional familial and gender roles. Zhang places the daughters in intimate proximity to their adopted fathers, either on their laps or huddled close. Most of the photographs are sited in gardens, which almost seem unreal. These cultivated landscapes contrast with the more wild, untamed landscape of Horizon . One photograph features a girl in a yellow dress with blue detail while her father wears a Hawaiian style shirt with pink flowers; these figures seem to become part of the manicured foliage. Does the garden reflect the nature of these constructed families? Another image shows the daughter in a cerise Qi Pao, standing defiantly while her father sits beside her clutching her hand. It’s evident that the it is the precocious young girl who is in control of the family.
As an Asian adoptee daughter, I find it repelling. I can’t imagine having a photo with my adoptive father in this way. What does it say about power and patriarchy? About feminization/fetishization? Contrast the Daddy and I series with Horizon, also featuring Chinese children.
I can’t agree with the reviewer, who states that "It’s evident that the it is the precocious young girl who is in control of the family."
Art is meant to push the envelope and make people think and question. The artist claims that this series is about juxtaposing East/West, Male/Female and Adult/Child. Was the artist trying to be provocative by also using a medium that would so easily be interpreted as inappropriate? What do the rest of you think?