Life Lessons

Life Lessons is a series of prints and an interactive installation developed as a Kala Art Institute Print Public municipal artist-in-residence with the City of Berkeley’s Mental Wellness and Recovery program.

I started the residency in the summer of 2021 by leading art workshops to explore mental well-being through art. The workshops offered opportunities for learning, enjoyment, connection, and self-reflection.

Several activities employed inexpensive craft foam in the creation of relief prints. I challenged myself to use the same material to create these letterpress prints. I have always viewed printmaking as a medium of accidents, experiments, and improvised solutions. This spirit of innovation and “do whatever works” echoes the adaptability required to be resilient in times of uncertainty and rapid change.

The Let Yourself Be Supported triptych is inspired by my experiences of stepping outside of my comfort zone of self-reliance and tapping into support networks during the pandemic.

The Break Old Patterns triptych was inspired by workshop participant Gwen Lark’s response to a reframing writing exercise.

Experiment, Fail, Grow is rooted in growth mindset and the guiding principles that set the tone of the workshops. Drink from Streams which Flow comes from a revelation about relationships.

In the Print Public exhibition at Kala in the spring of 2022, the public could view samples and try activities created for the workshops. Visitors could submit their reframing writing exercise in exchange for a letterpress print. My goal was for these writings to inform future prints, creating a positive, upward spiral of advice rooted in the lived experience of community members.

I created Surround Yourself with Love as a benefit print for Kala’s fundraiser. The text is a quotation by Sky, a Berkeley High School student who shared her writing about coping with grief in exchange for a print during the exhibition run.

Signed and numbered limited editions of the prints are available via Kala (see details on Artsy).

Credit: Christine Wong Yap, Life Lessons, 2021-2022, letterpress-printed relief prints, 12x18 / 18x12 / 11x8.5 inches, editions of 20–25 with exchange prints.

Printed by the artist at Kala Art Institute. Supported by Kala Art Institute’s Print Public Municipal Artist-in-Residence program. Thanks to Jamie Works-Wright and Crystal Lachman at the City of Berkeley. Thanks to Ellen, Mayumi, Meg, Nick and Gisela at Kala. Thanks to Cole Chang, Kennedy Morgan, and Josh for art and installation assistance. Thanks to all the workshop participants: Edith Reisman, Gwen Lark, Jamie Works-Wright, Norine Shima, and anonymous artists. Selected photos by Ken James Butler.