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Cheryll Leo-Gwin

A 4th generation Chinese American artist, Cheryll Leo-Gwin 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 in both countries.

Her Chinese American father and Chinese Canadian mother married in 1939 and laws of their lands forced them to live apart in their respective countries. American by birthright, Cheryll was denied American citizenship. Senator Warren Magnuson helped this American family immigrate to Seattle.

Raised in Seattle’s Beacon Hill, a then all white community, with no Chinese friends, she wondered where she fit. Earning her MFA at the UW, she retired as an educator and arts administrator, then traveled extensively to China to discover the meaning of being Chinese.
Chinese Civilization: The patriarchal society never recorded women’s births, deaths, or marriages. They remained anonymous, abused, neglected, forgotten, and murdered.

Over 20 years she collected oral histories from women who survived the Cultural Revolution, and from Chinese American women who fought for civil rights in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Recently, through two archaeologists, she discovered the journey to America taken by her grandfather in the mid-1800s as a physician.
Cheryll’s work is informed by this historical and biographical past.

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