Tag Archives: HALO


April 14, 2023

It is often said that history is cyclical; when humanity disregards the lessons of the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Racism against Asians has been on the rise. Individuals continue to be under threat. As a society, we have not learned from past failures, and we are bearing witness to history repeating itself. Round and round, the past returns to haunt us. This destructive circle must be broken. If not, history has taught us nothing, and the past, which has become the present, will continue into our future.

It was the year 1871. In downtown Los Angeles, a mob of 500 people—driven by hate, racism, and a mere misunderstanding—lynched 18 Chinese men without hesitation.

In 2022, the Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs organized an international design competition for the 1871 Chinese Massacre Memorial. Poon Design Inc. proposed two design concepts to honor the slain individuals. Located adjacent to the Chinese American Museum, the proposed memorial would sit a few blocks from the entrance gate to Los Angeles’ Chinatown.


The traditional Chinese Moon Gate is a circular opening that is incomplete at the bottom, a passageway between two circumstances. In our design proposal, this gateway is transformed into a portal between the horrors of the past and the optimism of the future. As tradition suggests, the gate—inspired by the shape of the full moon—rises from the earth, symbolizing birth and renewal. Marking the passage of time, the lunar cycle can also signify memory and learning, sorrow and protest, perpetuation and tranquility.

Akin to a halo hovering above North Los Angeles Street, our circular memorial comprises 24 steel and aluminum frames forming a horizontal Moon Gate, a portal between city and sky, mortal and immortal. The frame holds 18 translucent glass panels, each representing a different slain man. The incomplete circle displays six empty frames alluding to the additional unknown murdered individuals. As further historical research identifies these currently unknown individuals, new panels can be added to complete the circle.

Perceived from within the neighborhood, day or night, standing beyond or within the memorial—integrated LED lighting and transparent holographic technology will present a visual display honoring the slain Chinese, as well as historically-themed art installations to be programmed in collaboration with the community.


At 20 feet tall, 18 steel plates stand in an incomplete ellipse, recalling a Moon Gate. Each steel plate represents a slain man and towers over the visitor like sentinels demanding recognition and acknowledgement. Like looming apparitions, the steel plates twist and contort, evoking the torture these men suffered. Additionally, the traditional circular shape of the Moon Gate has been intentionally misshaped into an ellipse, symbolic of how each individual deformed their spirit and identity in an attempt to conform.

Expressing the duality of identities that these men needed to survive and assimilate; the steel plates are finished coarse on one side and polished on the other. Visitors confront this unsettling past within their own reflection. Six additional steel pieces are set flush in the stone pavers representing unknown lynched individuals. Within this perimeter of ominous steel sculpture, an ethereal glow of light emanates through translucent glass under the feet of the visitor representing the enduring will of these Chinese men, as well as a more hopeful future.

Our two design proposals are not merely objects or monuments, nor are they representational statues on a pedestal, but rather abstract and open-ended experiences. As enigmatic compositions of experiential art, sculpture, and architecture, the designs honor those that have been lost, never letting us ignore the sins of humanity and telling a story of consequence, recovery, and courage.


May 10, 2019

Yard Sale, 16” x 20”, July 2018

Most of my life, I have been painting. At age five in my parent’s San Francisco house, I painted an extensive landscape mural from the entry hall up the stairs—without permission or notice. My mother and father were excited, but not pleased—a parenting dilemma of pride and scolding. At age ten, I was invited by my elementary school to paint a larger-than-life Captain America on the courtyard wall. So many years ago, I preceded today’s fanaticism with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

For the past year, I have been exploring painting as an activity of searching, finding and intervening.

Flea Market Red, 27 ¼” x 31 ¼”, October 2018

My recent creative endeavors start with non-scientific searches at neighborhood garage sales, flea markets and second-hand stores. I seek traditional paintings, the classical still life of flowers in a vase. Also, I hope to find such paintings in their original period wood frame—the gilded, ornate, tacky frame. I have been fortunate finding many of these discarded paintings, and only for a few bucks.

Another Yard Sale, 19” x 23 ½”, July 2018
Detail of Fairfax Market Green, 26 ¼” x 30 ¼”, November 7, 2018

My first step of intervention is to tear out pages from my book, Sticks and Stones, Steel and Glass , and decoupage the pages onto various corners of the old flower painting. I do not stop at the limits of the canvas. In my art, I have always been fascinated in including the frame as part of the canvas. The pages and scraps from my book find themselves creeping up and over the aged wood frames.

I then create textures and hues with light acrylic washes. Following this is a signature gesture of mine, to give the subject of the painting an aura. Around the flowers and vase, I paint a halo or glow, as if to give new life. On top of this composition, I splatter gesso and drippings of tinted resin.

Detail of Flower Girl, 20 ½” x 24 ½”, September 2018

The result is an eccentric but visually dynamic work of juxtaposition. Colors, shapes and patterns from two different time periods collide—the original artist’s past and my present. Various mediums and techniques blur. Representation and abstraction coincide.

Garage Sale, 21” x 25”, February 2018

The visual noise invites the visitor to move back and forth, in and out, as she attempts to focus and grasp the mixed-media work. The visitor will appreciate the original flowers for a few minutes, before a splash of color draws his attention beyond the canvas. Then the viewer’s eye will be pulled into reading the words from my book. But some portions are illegible as a glob of gesso obscures the words. And so on. And so forth.

Detail of Habitat Flowers, 14 ½” x 17”, July 2018

This approach has created a few dozen works, with many variations on my premise. As I create, I am not sure if I am thinking about my approach to painting, or my approach to each day of my busy existence. But I like the unexpected collisions that result in new ideas. I like serendipity  and the unscheduled joys that typically would be undiscovered. I like that sometimes, risks must be taken, and it is okay to crash and burn. And I like knowing that timing and chance is everything, and perhaps I happened to finally get it right for this one moment of the day, or for this one painting.

A recent chapter of exploring abstraction, Gold Rush, 18” x 24”, November 2018
© Poon Design Inc.