Portrait of Cheryll Leo-Gwin, with art, brushes, and markers visible in the background.

Cheryll Leo-Gwin

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 into 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. 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.

5000 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 work combines this ancient history with the more recent Chinese American journey.

Cheryll earned her MFA from the University of Washington in 1977. Her work has been exhibited throughout the US, China, and Great Britian and is found in numerous public art and private collections including but not limited to:

Albuquerque Public Art Program, Albuquerque NM; Japanese American Remembrance Trail, Seattle; 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.

Jack Straw Atrium Gallery 2023: Larger than Life


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