Designer ······· Annie Lee Carroll
Medium ················ Acrylic  +
Newspaper on Canvas
Category ················ Painting
Date ················· August 2021

The Gaze - Chicago Asian Ink 

In June of 2021, I joined  a mentorship program with Asian Ink, a Chicago based creative collective for Asian identifying individuals. For my project, my mentor Hana Rafee (she/they) and I wanted to focus on the fetishization of the AAPI identity, because it is something that has affected us both in very different ways. We decided to interview each other and surprise each other with pieces that we felt represented each other’s experiences, using a creative method that we thought would challenge ourselves.  

During Hana’s interview, they talked about their experience with being fetishized and harassed in public, mainly while taking public transport. They talked about how it affected the way they dressed, the amount of makeup they wore, the routes they would take, and their feelings not only of safety but about their identity.

With this piece, I wanted to challenge myself and use a more abstract route rather than the realism that I usually do with paintings. I drew eyes around the people walking to represent the unwelcome gaze that we often feel on ourselves, regardless of what we’re wearing, when we go out in public. I used different mediums such as magazine cutouts, house paint, and acrylic paint to create multiple textures representing the chaos of commuting, but also the confusion regarding identity that many of us suffer when we have negative experiences related to our Asian heritage. I also used the color blue for many reasons. One of the questions I asked Hana during the interview was how experiencing fetishization and harassment affects their work. They told me that throughout their work, you can see that sometimes they use red when they want to represent being fetishized and viewed from an outsider’s perspective. However, they also create works where they have green skin, because it represents the disgust they feel about themself when they have these experiences. I chose blue because I wanted to represent a middleground where fetishization is not “flattering” (red) like some people have told us to believe, but where it also is not a representation of how we should feel about ourselves (green).

This piece is really important to me because during the time of this program, I fell into a really bad creative slump where I couldn’t connect to anything I was creating. Hana’s testimony was the first time in months that I felt inspired to pick up a paint brush and paint something with a story that I felt connected to.