Introduction to Ten Banners for Home and Office

By artist Christine Wong Yap, Ten Banners for Home and Office is an edition of 50 three color silk-screened holographic glitter vinyl posters with 8 peel off stickers.  This super-sized sticker sheet reminds us that everyday there is something worthy of a little recognition and exaltation.  Whether or not you actually fill in the blank stickers or ever remove them from their backing sheet, they act as both an invitation and a challenge to focus on the good parts of everyday.

Christine Wong Yap is an interdisciplinary artist working in installations, sculptures, multiples, and works on paper to explore optimism and pessimism. Her work examines the paradox that mundane materials or situations can give rise to irrational expectations, emotions, and experiences. Major touchstones are language, light and dark, and psychology. Her work has been exhibited extensively in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as in New York, Los Angeles, Manila, Osaka, London, Newcastle, and Manchester (U.K). Born in California, Yap holds a BFA and MFA from the California College of the Arts. A longtime resident of Oakland, CA, she relocated to New York, NY in 2010.

Interview with Christine Wong Yap

icon for podpress  Interview with Christine Wong Yap [31:59m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

The Sparkle Effect by Sarah Hotchkiss

Do you have a happiness role model? Think about this question. Do you actively pursue happiness in a systematic way such that you have identified someone who appears to lead an optimistic lifestyle you aspire towards? Christine Wong Yap has. Ask Christine for her happiness role models and you will receive an instant reply: Henry Winkler and Maira Kalman. You may remember Winkler from his decade-long role as “The Fonz” on Happy Days. Maira Kalman is the prolific illustrator and author of such books as The Principles of Uncertainty and The Pursuit of Happiness. And yes, they both have affiliations with the word ‘happy.’

Happiness, that often-unattainable life goal, is one of Christine’s central artistic concerns. Her artworks address optimism, pessimism, the pleasures of mundane materials, and transparency of the creative process. For the Present Group’s Issue #21, she created an extra-large sticker sheet: a screen print on cut holographic vinyl. The mirrored images are a festoon, a conglomeration of ten blank ribbon banners resembling packaging flourishes or “I ♥ MOM” tattoos. Underneath black and transparent cyan ink, the fractured reflective surface is dynamic and transfixing.  To achieve maximum sparkly effect, either it or you must move. This is highly recommended.

When I was a child, I had a fairly substantial sticker collection. They were modest, solid colored stickers of the farm animal, flower, balloon, and heart variety. I periodically sifted through the full to semi-full sheets, checking my inventory, hoarding the tiny adhesive symbols. I deferred gratification indefinitely. No art project or birthday card was ever good enough for a sticker from my collection. The thought of sharing them or using them never crossed my mind.

Two decades later, faced with Christine’s Present Group piece Ten Banners for Home and Office, I have a very different impulse. I want to peel the banners from their paper backing and stick them everywhere. I want to use them as labels, pronouncements, and notices. I want them on notebooks, newspaper boxes, and a card to my best friend. I realize now any sense of loss I might feel from the initial removal of a sticker from my possession will be more than countered by the cheer it will eventually bring both me and others. Instead of preserving the sticker sheet as a whole, I want to test the sticker’s ability to dazzle me for days on end. My six-year-old self wouldn’t understand, but Christine’s stickers lead me to understand something of myself and her practice simultaneously: distributing good and cheerful things into the world begets real and lasting pleasure. Happiness comes from sharing ideas and resources, forging new connections within a community of one’s own making. If Christine’s stickers are a present, in my hands they yearn to be re-gifted.

If all this sounds a bit sappy, I blame the effects of holographic vinyl on my brain.

Christine’s work fosters this elevated mood—in everything from her Positive Signs series to ribbon texts, from Flag Snowflakes to mixed media installations. She encourages the viewer not only to be happier, but to question the conditions of that happiness. She is drawn to innocent declarative modes: gel pens on graph paper, hand-sewn banners, cheery office supplies, dollar store finds, and general “knickknackery.” Too often, she argues, cheap disposable materials are seen as depressing. Making this connection allows pessimism to be more commonplace than it needs to be and, in turn, undermines the very real pleasure that can be extracted from brightly-colored plastic objects.

Christine Wong Yap, Positive Sign #19 (When to Use Optimism), 2011, glitter pen with foil print on gridded vellum, 8.5 x 11 in

Much of Christine’s approach to art making is based on her extensive research into the realm of positive psychology. Put forth by its main figures Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, positive psychology is meant to supplement traditional psychology, not replace it. Instead of treating just mental illness, Sligman and Csikszentmihalyi propose, what if we attempt to make ordinary lives more fulfilling? Immersing herself in the literature of the movement (accumulating titles such as The Happiness Hypothesis, Born to Be Good, Flow, and Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain) Christine has latched onto a particular symbolic language of her own. This is most evident in Positive Signs, a series of glitter and fluorescent pen drawings on gridded vellum. In these, she uses the structure of info graphics to explain complex principles of positive psychology to a general audience.

For Positive Signs Christine embodies the role of the cheerleader, the explicator, and the friend, offering up lessons such as this one from Seligman: “Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist and the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.” Moving beyond Zen-like statements into the actual visualization of these principles, Christine tests the limits of info graphics to clearly relay data. Do they explicate or further confuse? She admits to being deeply interested in futility of her attempts to pin down happiness, chart its existence, and explain the tactics for increasing its probability. Reading Positive Signs en masse, I find myself invigorated and justified in my own artistic pursuits. The graphs and charts give shape to the intangible subjects with which many people—not just creative types—wrestle, supplying tools for how we can shape and facilitate positive thinking. Positive Signs are guidelines for promoting happiness in our own lives.

 Christine Wong Yap, hopexpectation, 2011, 101 x 18 x 1 in

At one level, Christine’s work functions as a barometer of sorts—you are either gladdened or repelled by the fluorescent hues, flowing banners, starburst patterns, and multitudinous kittens. But beyond this surface treatment, she addresses a number of curious aesthetic assumptions with regard to class, economics, and the function of art objects in general. In Christine’s hands, previously disposable materials become art objects that exist indefinitely, their ability to bestow a dose of happiness prolonged and potentially magnified. There is no shame, Christine believes, in the decorative impulse. High or low, cheap or expensive, the results of that impulse rest on your ability to analyze and promote the conditions for happiness in your own life.

Ten Banners for Home and Office provides you with a choice. Use it as you would any sheet of decorative stickers: plaster it about town. Preserve it as a fine art object, intact and on display. How is it meant to be treated? Ask yourself which will make you happier. Then you have your answer.

As the Fonz would say, “Exactamundo.”



Sarah Hotchkiss is an artist and arts writer living in San Francisco. She contributes regularly to the KQED Arts blog and Art Practical. She received an M.F.A. from California College of the Arts and a B.A. in English Literature from Brown University. In 2011 she was the recipient of an Alternative Exposure grant for the curatorial project Stairwell’s. Her artwork has been shown in the greater New York and San Francisco areas, including Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, ATA Window Gallery, and MacArthur B Arthur. Past residencies include the Vermont Studio Center, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and Esalen Institute.


Annotated Links for TPG 21

Christine’s Links:


Elaine Fox’s Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain (2012)


A cognitive psychologist looks at optimism and pessimism.


This is an enjoyable new mass-market book revealing the neurological centers of approach and avoidance instincts. Fox’s voice is a welcome addition to my understanding of the field of positive psychology. After just the first chapter, I recast my personal setbacks in running with a more positive perspective on my progress. Just as pleasure is fleeting, my ability to stay optimistic can waver over time. Books such as this are like nutrients that remind me to activate the skills of optimism.


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Rick Emery Robinson’s The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Encounter (1990)

This book may be purchased at
In 1985, the Getty commissioned a pair of researchers to conduct a study on the nature of the aesthetic experience, with a focus on finding correlations with flow, or optimal experience. The methods and findings are detailed in this out-of-print, academically-written book. Artists and curators will find some of the results basic, however, the rigor with which the researchers parsed the dimensions of aesthetic experience helped clarify my understanding of how art objects function, what viewers must bring to aesthetic experiences, and how viewers shape their experiences with artworks.




Constructing personal devil and angel archetypes

Actor Henry Winkler Plays “Not My Job,” and “Fabulous” New Yorkers

I was tired and lost on the Van Wyck Expressway when I heard a seven-minute interview with Henry Winkler that snapped me outside of my miserable, inward perspective. Winkler seems irrepressibly happy, with no complaints or regrets. The interview reminded me that you find what you look for in daily life, whether conflicts or beauty, complaints or humor.

I have been thinking a lot about how being in New York is changing me for the better and worse, illustrated by extreme New Yorker archetypes. The first is the stereotypical obnoxious, complaining, defensive New Yorker. (This is mostly caricature, though the city’s density can breed impatience for social niceties.) The other archetype is the one that Winkler seems to exemplify: the live-and-let-live New Yorker, who is constantly finding things “fabulous” and appreciates life in all its manifestations. Winkler would make a great happiness role model.



Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

GGSC’s blog features short, practical articles written by positive psychologists. The advice for improving subjective well-being is straightforward and, crucially, rooted in empirical studies (unlike self-help). Recommended for those with interest in‚ but not much time for‚ applying positive psychology in their lives.



Simon and Tom Bloor


Fraternal artists based in Birmingham and London, UK.

The Bloors make drawings, paintings, wall texts, sculptures, and public projects around play, public space, and modernist forms. Their latest projects, including schoolyard commissions, attempt to inspire informal interactions. I find that their works balance a cheery, earnest tone with formal and typographic sophistication and an open-endedness that invites intellectual engagement.



Michael Jones McKean’s The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms


Ambitious site-specific weather project at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE




McMaster-Carr’s website


I wish every website I use for procurement was as clean, informative, and easy to navigate as this.

The speed and ease of the virtual world can create false expectations, making manipulating the material world seem frustrating and slow. McMaster-Carr’s site provides generous access to material information, dimensions, and technical illustrations, exemplifying how material problem-solving can be facilitated with elegantly-dense interaction design.




Hida Tool

Though I use common materials in my work, I love fine tools. One of the great tragedies of our generation is the rarity of our encounters with objects that will last a lifetime, and further, specialists with wells of knowledge and enthusiasm for particular materials or tools. Hida is one such loci of connoisseurship. Based in Berkeley, this mom-and-pop shop sells Japanese hand tools, specializing in kitchen knives, gardening implements, and woodworking tools. I purchased wood-carving gouges from Hida 15 years ago, and they are holding up promisingly well. Hida’s specialness was recently brought to the fore again, when I decided to buy a Japanese saw, and could find no suitable counterpart in New York City.



TPG’s Links:


Christine’s work is influenced by the field of Positive Psychology.

This is a field concerned with why minds function well rather than the opposite… A brief primer can be found

courtesy of Wikipedia.



Thrive! – The Living Well Show

Online radio webcasting about positive psychology.



Flow, the Secret to Happiness

Christine references the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In this TED talk he discusses the creative ‘flow’ state.

How That Sausage of Happiness Is Made

Stefan Sagmeister is another artist who investigates notions of happiness. This article describes a recent show of his and an upcoming movie project. Both are concerned with what constitutes happiness and how it may be achieved.











Web hosting that supports artists.


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