Breathe It In/Let It Go
by Kah Yangni / Artist-In-Residence 2022
Background of the piece
I work as an illustrator, mostly making movement art: art that has to do with the political movements of our time. I use to focus on positivity a lot; in my experience, when you’re trying to help people feel their power and get activated, positive, bright imagery works. But the art I was making sometimes felt at odds with the day-to-day reality of living in the U.S. while so much was going off the rails. Grief was accumulating and had nowhere to go in the art I was making, because I felt like I couldn’t speak to it through activist art.
I wanted to make something on my own that could respond to the emotional reality of now and that would help me and others build an ability to process the emotions of the present.
My artist coach Casey brought up a book she was reading called Undrowned that talks about the dorsal fins of dolphins — fins on their back that keep them steady in intense waves. I wanted to start making art that does the same.
I knew I wanted to make a small series. I started with small, raw sketches of people in water, lying under water, or staring at water. I knew I wanted to make something that incorporated the lyrics of “Breathe It In” by Beautiful Chorus.
I redrew these sketches and transferred them to screenprint to create my final piece. As I was in the process of making it and more things happened in the world, I realized I wanted to focus on a wider range of emotion — rage, too!
I am now planning to go forward with this project as a series about building the emotional tech to deal with the present.
I am really inspired by movement artists in the past and present.
I’m especially inspired by the work of Corita Kent, who was a pop art star and also a nun and art teacher at the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. She made beautiful bold screenprints and paintings, many of which mashed together text and images from popular advertising with words from scripture. She also made a lot of incredible art around social justice and against war.
I’m also greatly inspired by the work of many present day movement artists, illustrators, and muralists, including Favianna Rodriguez, Molly Costello, Micah Bazant, Kate Deciccio, Jessica Sabogal, Jess X. Snow, and many, many others. These are the people who teach me that there is a place for emotional work that explores the struggles of our time and how we can get to the other side.
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