By Elena Leung

My professor assigned us to read an excerpt from “Brown Girls” by Daphne Palasi Andreades. In one chapter, “Optical Illusions”, the girls are playing with makeup and they notice but ignore that the products don’t look good on them because they were meant “for girls with fairer skin”. Towards the end, they paint their faces “light, lighter. Until [they] are the color of lilies. Or bones.” (14). This part especially inspired my painting, girls wiping away the color in their skin to fit into the beauty standards.

Hieu, aka. Kelogsloops, is an Australian artist who had an exhibition in New York in 2018. His art includes subtle aspects of Eastern Asian culture and a feeling of melancholy and sadness that I also wanted to portray in my own piece. He has distinct gold and pure white lines which I added to my own piece, along with a watercolor-like, painterly background with splotches and brush strokes.

I used Jung Hoyeon, who is a famous South Korean actress and model, as a loose reference. I did not want to make a portrait of an existing person, so I focused more on the accuracy of her expression than her features. When drawing her, I wanted her to be slightly glaring, in a defiant manner, almost angry.

In front of her are a dozen roses—the national flower of America. In the mass of roses are other countries’ national flowers: Jasmine (India), Puerto Rican Hibiscus (Puerto Rico), Bauhinia (Hong Kong), Barbados Flower Fence (Barbados), Costus (Nigeria), Lapageria (Chile). Because I couldn’t represent all the women of color in one girl, I decided to add different national flowers from all over the world instead. They represent the minorities within the United States that also face the unfair beauty standards of the white Americans.

The jade jewelry portrays pride in culture and the gold is splattered on her skin because I wanted to signify how precious her skin color was. The white silhouetted hand prying at her eye represents East Asians being made fun of for having “small, slanted” eyes. The white paint that is wiped onto her hair, face and neck by the other two hands are vivid, colorless and dead, interrupting the girl’s beauty. It throws off the piece’s aesthetic and creates an uncomfortable feeling, so that the audience will feel like the white marks intruded on the piece. It also tells them that even though she is beautiful, with skin worth gold, the hands still want to change everything. This piece is about discriminatory beauty standards placed onto people of color. That no matter how pretty a colored girl is, she will never be considered ‘beautiful’ in the eyes of Americans. It also tells people of color that they should be comfortable in their own skin, no matter what shade it is—and that their skin color is as precious as gold, not something that should be wiped away.

Powered By EmbedPress

Description: A close up of the girl’s face.
Description: A close up of the girl’s gold flecked skin and flowers.