Untitled, Kathy Liang

Untitled by Kathy Liang; A/P/A Voices: A COVID-19 Public Memory Project; NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.

by Gabor Ptacek

This image depicts an art piece by Kathy Liang, who was a senior in high school at the time of its submission (May 26, 2020) to A/P/A Voices: A COVID-19 Public Memory Project. In the piece, a red figure in the center of a virus cell is speaking to a blue figure sitting in the fetal position. Surrounding the two figures is a quote from a student in University of California, Los Angeles’ Asian Pacific Coalition. The acquaintance of the student said, “… I’ve been trying to stay away from certain types of people… if you know what I mean” and “you’re not like from China.” At the bottom, there are more drawn virus cells. The artist’s Instagram handle (@kathydoesartstuff) is also at the top, left of the image.

This piece shares the fear and anxiety surrounding existence as an Asian-identifying person in the US during the era of COVID-19. Stop AAPI Hate, a center founded in March of 2020 to “track and respond to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States,” released a report sharing information about the discrimination Asian-identifying people faced since the inception of Stop AAPI Hate.

Liang’s art piece illustrates a melancholic recipient of the verbal abuse, who may also receive harassment online or from sources beyond school. It’s important to consider the influence this treatment has on the mental health of Asian Americans and Asian American youth in particular. In an essay published on June 10, 2020, authors Hannah Tessler, Meera Choi, and Grace Kao share how the COVID-19 pandemic affected hate crimes, negative biases, and the mental health of the Asian Americans. Liang’s art piece highlights the importance of discussing such incidents, and encouraging those affected to seek help. Finally, it brings a spotlight to such a topic so that those outside of these institutions (high school/college) may know these struggles and do what they can to assist.

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