Saturday, August 25, 2018

Visual Artist Sue Tsai and the Importance of Representation

Sue Tsai, right, with her latest piece "Metamorphosis"
Photos: @melissamissye
By Missy E. 

Throughout the month of August, New York-based visual artist Sue Tsai once again took center stage during her pop-up exhibit this year entitled "You Deserve a Beautiful Life". 

Her bold and edgy pieces drew admirers from around the city who didn't waste any time doing photo-ops with her larger-than-life pieces. The namesake piece "You Deserve a Beautiful Life" depicted a young city boy (with the cleanest pair of purple kicks) reaching out to a young girl wearing a beautiful hijab amidst the backdrop of night clouds painted in deep blue hues. The words that come to mind are peace and small acts of kindness. 

Whether it was the namesake piece or the "Fears of an Artist" piece - the painting with the young asian girl in her slick-back ponytail, chanclas and colorful dress - representation was key and the art spoke to that powerful element in true form.
"You Deserve A Beautiful Life"

Click "Read More" to check out more exhibit photos + Tsai's heartfelt message!

Tsai Shares Her Heart

While this wasn't the artist's first circus, so to speak, since she's exhibited her solo shows since 2013 - this exhibit had a heartfelt touch to it. Visitors were given a secret glimpse to the artist's rhyme and reason with her welcoming message plastered on one of the walls - which was an art piece in itself with its personal and vivid words. Here's a snippet:
 "I've spent the last year of my life painting pain into peace; the pain of fallen love with potential, the pain of a love left to starve, the pain of unforgivable failure, the pain of transformation...What I can't seem to find peace in, is the pain of our society. Just as one part of my heart finally heals, empathy pulls another part out. We live in a world today where we are swiftly becoming desensitized to incidents that by any morel standard should be traumatic to our souls. We're at war with each other and we're at war with our hearts. The thing about being an artist is that you never become desensitized, you feel too much maybe express too little. I've never been one to be vocal about the things that weigh heavily on me and sometimes it feels like I've spent a lifetime under that burden..."

Not shy to selfies or photo requests, Tsai made sure to make herself available to those who asked for her time. The vibe was authentic and it's safe to say we can all appreciate the capacity for art to not only gather strangers and friends alike in the same time and moment, but also for the opportunity for artists to honestly and vulnerably express themselves as well.

Fave Piece 

No coincidence, I was drawn to the depiction of that young, curious Asian girl. Her dress was already a favorite because I want to say one image drawn on it looked like Our Lady of Guadalupe (a well-revered representation of Mary in the Hispanic Catholic community). But the painting also paid homage to other artists as well with their iconic symbols (Basquiat crown).
Taking a photo with my favorite piece "Fears of an Artist"

Beyond that, the little girl remind me of myself - curious, observant and unafraid. I want to think that young girl still lives within me today and the painting reminded me exactly of that - beauty and innocence through the eyes of Asian-Americans. For others to spend time visually taking in that little young girl, it represented how important it is for equal representation in multimedia.

Importance of Representation
Everyone's talking about the film Crazy Rich Asians (shout out to my girl Sadie for inviting me out) because for many of my Asian brethren it was a moment that placed our experience into mainstream Hollywood conversation. But no kung-fu fighting or villagers with rice hats were necessarily needed - not that villagers with rice hats are obsolete from the Asian experience because it very much is. That being said, city/suburban girls who look like me would find it a welcoming experience for others to appreciate something as simple and complex as our culture.


"Still Bloomed"

For more of Sue Tsai's work:
@SueTsai on Instagram

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