Art Series Takes On Racism
By Danna Beltran
These are some of Phingbodhipakkiya’s pieces with strong messages speaking out on the injustices the Asian Community faces.
On November 3, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya (pronounced PING-bodee-bak-ee-ah), a neuroscientist turned artist, displayed her artwork for New Yorkers to view, while traveling through the transformed Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station. The artwork including anti-discriminatory messages like, “I did not make you sick” and “I am not your scapegoat” illustrated along with the portraits of African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, brought life and color to an otherwise dull subway station.
Phingbodhipakkiya titled this series, “I Believe in Our City,” as a response to a cruel statistic received by the city’s Commission on Human Rights, who reported more than 566 cases, from February to September. Involving the discrimination, harassment, and bias to the Asian community for Covid-19, 184 of those reports were of anti-Asian nature. This causes a worrisome increase that is not just visible in New York, but also in Asian American communities across the country.
Phingbodhipakkiya during a phone interview said that her goal for the series was, “To turn these hurts into something beautiful and powerful.” She wanted a way to say that, “Despite everything we have faced as Asian-Americans and New Yorkers, that I still believe in New York.” The art series features 45 pieces available for the public to see from November 3 to December 2 at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, an area that provides a various group of commuting New Yorkers. Some of the pieces have Chinese and East Asian flowers that are symbolic to the cultures along with portraits of Asians. Some of the other panels provided information about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers, and there are also visible statistics about Asian owned businesses in the panels as well.
In addition, support for the Black Lives Matter movement is present in her work showing cooperation towards the fight against institutionalized racism by featuring portraits of Black people. Phingbodhipakkiya’s strong message for the audience is to, “Look upon Asian and Black faces, full of defiance and strength, and learn about the injustices that we’ve faced, you can’t help but see us and you can’t help but feel that we are reclaiming space.”
This series is personal as Phingbodhipakkiya, who has Thai and Indionesian parents, grew up experiencing anti-Asian bias firsthand. Throughout the series, she wanted to highlight experiences for her and those in her community that might otherwise go unnoticed. She goes on to explain what her art means to her: “My art has always been about making the invisible visible.” After a month-long showing, her pieces can be seen displayed around the city in bus shelters, LinkNYC kiosks and in the Department of Transportation’s display cases. These pieces spread awareness toward topics and highlight actions that may not be considered hurtful. Not to mention, Phingbodhipakkiya has new exciting plans coming her way as the city has asked her to do a hand-painted mural, with the location for it yet to be determined.