Why pursue art? Why did you decide to walk down this path? The questions that I ask myself once in awhile. I am always reassessing myself and the work that bubbles out of me. I create in various state of minds. Sometimes I make in a trance when my imagination, thoughts and energy are at its highest, to a point where I have to release or live with being overwhelmed by emotions. Other times I slowly chip away at a thought and spend years to add one mark at a time.
Art chose me. Ever since grade school, I was continuously in art classes to protest my parent's desire to control how I should live. They tell me they are worried that my life choices will not benefit my future. I hear in the Hmong community and from relatives,
“Our parent's didn't come to America for people like you to mess it up”.
What are we messing up? Is it the opportunities to become medical doctors, lawmakers, and money making machines? The American Dream? The privilege to an education and having a voice?
I am aware that my parents did not have the opportunities that I have today. I am aware that my parents are advising me based on their own experiences. I understand that when they express their disappointment in me being an artist, they do not want to see me relive their struggles, they want me to live a life of peace and comfort. They want me to silently follow the easiest, stress-free path to living a good life. They see that I have one life and they do not want me to mess up this chance to make something of myself.
Art has been continuously pushing itself into my life. Being a maker is the only thing that I know. I cannot begin to explain the dreams I have about painting and drawing, nor the dreams about colors, the movements of line and texture. Art is spiritual, it is a part of me, my culture and history. Art is ingrained in my family and ancestors. Art is not static, it is uncertain and yet certain.
I chose art. As a first generation college student, it took 20 years to build the confidence to call myself an artist. To claim being an artist means hurting my parent's hope for my future while building my own. To call myself an artist means I will be pigeon-holed to explain what I am, and why mainstream society should care about what I make.
To me, art is about sharing, giving, inviting, and sometimes forcing people to see and experience things differently. I am extremely aware of my identity as a Hmong American women and what I make will affect my community. To be an artist is to revisit, deconstruct and critically engage people in my work. I am an artist because I want to have unforgivable conversations about human experiences, America, art, history and all things Hmong. So why not pursue art?