From Art to Social Justice: I started to paint, but learned intersectionality instead

I’ve been drawing for almost 10 years but never picked up the art of painting. In Asian communities, art wasn’t considered as a career, rather a worthless hobby. From the age of 7 to college, I was prohibited from taking any art classes. But I wouldn’t stop. Back then, drawing was more affordable with a piece of paper and pencils, and easier to hide from my parents.

It was not until I came to college, I was challenged to use colors and textures in design. Without no knowledge in color theory or brush technique, I picked up a brush and a few tubes of acrylic paints.

A few hours in.

I was frustrated. Intuitively mixing and staring at the color wheel reference didn’t get me what I wanted. “Oh come on I know the basic! Blue and Yellow is Green.” Yet each small fraction of a blue adding in utterly changed the value of the green I had. I never achieved to the greenish color of the tree in front of me. I was frustrated.

I sat down and looked at the people around me. I was wondering if I should paint humans instead. Because I appreciated individuality and view each person as unique and complicated as a work of art.

There came the “Ah hah” moment when I found a great connection between color and identity. Each painting, created from variety of different colors and techniques, is unique to the artist. Similarly, each human being is special, complicated and beautiful as a work of art, as a mixture of layers of identities. Each color in this painting presents an identity, a value or a part of oneself. All of these values combined to create one individual under all forms of privileges and oppression.

Some people may share one common “color”, but its intersections to other colors create the variety of hues, values, strengths, tints, etc. It’s important to see an individual as a whole self, not by a separate identity. When talking about intersectionality, only freedom for all forms of oppression is the freedom for all.

Such differences won’t divide us, rather make us stronger together.

I started to paint, but I learned to appreciate individuality and intersectionality.