The John Hope Franklin Center Gallery is a space that brings together ideas, art and photography from across disciplines and themes. Exhibits on display are curated by the John Hope Franklin Center and include works by students, faculty, local and visiting artists and are displayed throughout the year in the gallery.

The John Hope Franklin Center and Asian/Pacific Studies Institute are co-sponsoring the gallery 'Corky Lee's Asian America: 50 Years of Photographic Justice' in the John Hope Franklin Center art gallery as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

A group of people are gathered in an art gallery, examining various framed photographs displayed along the walls. Among them, a man wearing a mask and holding a water bottle looks closely at one of the photographs while others engage in conversation and observe the artwork around them. The gallery space is well-lit with track lighting on the ceiling, creating a warm ambiance.

Corky Lee’s work invites us to rethink what we thought we knew about Asian American history, and to construct new narratives that reject the framing of anti-Asian violence as limited to exceptional moments of history. It suggests, as well, that a full reckoning with the history of anti-Asian violence must go beyond acts by racist individuals to analyze state violence.

This particular collection also pushes us beyond simple narratives of oppression and resistance. There are more stories that lie behind the images of Bong Jae Jang, Miné Okubo, the Miss Saigon protest, the struggle for bilingual education, and the many other treasures that are part of this exhibit. Thanks to Corky Lee’s tireless efforts to document our lives, we have these snapshots that are more than snapshots. They are vistas onto Asian American history, which turns out to be far more interesting, vital, and complex, than we imagined.

Introduction written by Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of History at Duke University

A group of people attentively observing framed photographs displayed on a gallery wall. One man in a purple T-shirt holds a booklet and gazes at the artwork, while two women beside him look in the same direction with interest. The gallery is softly illuminated, creating a serene atmosphere.

About the artist:

Corky Lee (1947-2021) was a second-generation Chinese American photojournalist. Corky's adolescent years were shaped by the turbulent social and political climate of the 1960s. He selected photography as his “sword” to document and challenge social, economic, and racial inequities impacting Asian-American communities. Over the succeeding five decades, Corky became a fixture at every Asian American event in the New York metropolitan area. His passion for photojournalism resulted in a collection that recorded the birth and growth of the AAPI movement and the expansion of AAPI diaspora communities throughout the United States. It came to be said that no event was complete without having Corky and his camera in attendance, earning him the sobriquet of the “Undisputed, Unofficial, Asian-American photographer laureate.”

A woman with glasses closely examines a framed photograph displayed on a gallery wall. The photo depicts a group of people gathered around an old steam train in a scenic outdoor setting. The woman appears focused on the artwork, her profile illuminated by soft gallery lighting.

Corky’s photography was instrumental in chronicling struggles for health care, employment abuses, and police brutality as well as innumerable photographic recordings of the cultural, political, and economic lives and struggles of AAPI communities. He described his life mission as a campaign to “Change America one photograph at a time,” to correct historical inaccuracies, fight stereotypes, injustice & celebrate the everyday struggles and accomplishments of AAPI communities.”

Tragically, Corky passed away from complications associated with Covid on January 27, 2021. His memory and his work will live on, as a living and active legacy to inspire and guide not only for the AAPI community but all the communities that make up the American mosaic.

biography abridged from the Official Website of the Estate of Corky Lee

The exhibition will remain on display in the John Hope Franklin Center Gallery through the end of June 2024.

The John Hope Franklin Center and Asian/Pacific Studies Institute are hosting Filipina street muralist Venazir Martinez to Duke's campus to feature selections from her work in the John Hope Franklin Center art gallery as part of Filipino American History Month.

street mural with various individuals in different actions

The exhibition, part of "Hilabana: Espasyo Temporal," delves into the dynamics of human interaction, dispersion, and identity formation across space and time. The intention is to create a psychogeographic map that captures the essence of contemporary Filipino indigenous and diasporic identities-within this temporal expanse, shared memories and collective experiences meld, forming the foundation of their shared identity.

Emerging from the Hila-bana street art movement that started in 2018 in Baguio City, Philippines, "Hila-bana" is rooted in the Tagalog term "hilbanahan," meaning temporary stitching. It embodies the symbiotic journey of individuals of diverse ethnicities. The pulang sinulid, or red thread, analogous to the DNA that runs through our veins, becomes a vital strand intertwining with our indigenous traditions, echoing the threads that course through the heart of our ancestral heritage. Across lived spaces, the subjects weave tales of cultural exchange, their footprints retracing the rhythm of urbanity and the ever-evolving movement of its inhabitants.

Event schedule:
October 6, 2023
4-5pm: View artist work & live music featuring West Oxking
5-5:30pm: Dr. Anna Storti will briefly introduce Venazir Martinez, followed by an artist talk and Q & A.
Light refreshments will be provided.

October 7, 2023
3-4pm: Venazir Martinez (Filipina artist); Karen Lynch Harley (Haliwa-Saponi artist) will complete a live mural in the John Hope Franklin Center Gallery. Come see their work in progress during this time.

October 8, 2023
4-5pm: The public is welcomed to come view the completed paintings in the John Hope Franklin Center Gallery.

The exhibition will remain on display in the John Hope Franklin Center Gallery through the end of October 2023.

About the artists:
Venazir Martinez is a Filipino visual anthropreneur, and a street muralist. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines Baguio. She was awarded Best Thesis through her art and advocacy entitled Hila-bana. This street art hunt challenged the public's visual perception through cultural emblems to revitalize Filipino ancestral heritage.

Martinez's creations are deeply influenced by the stories of people she encountered during her creative journey. Her artworks portray realistic depictions of individuals from diverse cultures, rendered in a fragmented and animated style. This approach, Progressive Abstract Realism, captures the intricate layers of our identities and the factors that have molded our fundamental values as a nation.

Venazir's profound fascination with identity formation became her spiritual quest and life's purpose, compelling her to redefine the myriad meanings of "Filipino" by interweaving the red thread, one wall at a time.

Karen Lynch Harley is a Native American Artist. She is a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe of North Carolina. Her work is inspired by her love of life and culture and usually tells a story. She believes art is therapy for the body and soul and enjoys sharing her gift with others to help them find their inner gifts and spirit. She pulls from her own roots to create art in a variety of art mediums.

Karen’s work has been received nationally and internationally. Her work has been featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles regarding her art and devotion to teaching others how to release their creativity through art.

Karen has recently completed several outdoor murals in Halifax County, North Carolina for the Ed Fitts Charitable Foundation; the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation and the University of Maryland, College Park Campus.

Karen has also illustrated two story books. One for the Piscataway Indians of Maryland and one a story she created herself for children.