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Announcements and Updates

Hello community & friends,

As a citizen and an artist, it is my responsibility; and as a person of color, it is my need, to speak and make the following announcements and updates on my art:


Illustration by Bernie Fuchs

1. ABOUT MY BUSINESS IDENTITY

These past recent months, especially weeks, have been emotionally demanding ones. The immediate aftermath of COVID-19 claimed too many American lives, directly putting our health, emotional, and financial situations in distress. The Black community is disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to complex historical and socioeconomic conditions in the U.S. Moreover, they are still reminded of the pain and hurt of living in an America where decades of police brutality and institutional racism go incomprehensibly unchecked.

There’s an unspoken rule, that many businesses, corporations, celebrities, and so-called “social-media influencers” are best staying quiet and distant on politically controversial topics, for fear of polarizing and alienating their audiences and hurting their BRAND.

As a sole-member and owner of my business, I am my business, and my business is me. I have thought long and hard about this, and I think it’s important that I make clear what my brand is:

HUMAN RIGHTS, JUSTICE, ANTI-RACISM, ANTI-FACISM, EQUALITY AND EQUITY are topics neither controversial nor political. In a civilized society, there is no debate on where corporations and individuals need to stand on these issues. As a citizen, a Chinese-American, and as an artist, I stand firmly with the #blacklivesmatter movement.

2. ABOUT MY OPERATIONS

Inspired by the PS5 release announcement, I will put a halt on making posts about my art.

Art is an important part of social dialogue. However, I believe the WIP and completion pictures of my recent paintings of European cityscapes and landscapes are an insensitive distraction to the conversations going on right now. It’s a privilege to be politically apathetic, to look away at beautiful paintings of cityscapes and landscapes, to keep a “positive energy”, and still live a life completely unaffected by whatever discussions taking place in the political theater. Although a POC, I nevertheless have that privilege as an Asian-American when I go jogging, shopping, perform mundane daily activities without having to fear for my life.

I will still paint, and still take pictures and videos, but I will save those posts for later and allow for more important voices to be heard.

3. ABOUT MY ART

There is something I am less comfortable to outright speak of, because I don’t know how to talk about it in an organic, eloquent, and sensitive way. So please excuse my forward ways.

I have long had a distaste for art of pretty flowers, of pretty white women, or of pretty white women posing prettily with pretty flowers. In my younger days, I myself fell for these aesthetic choices. There is no shortage of evidence of that if you dig through my early works. I am glad and proud that I have matured artistically and philosophically.

The reason for that distaste is because I see art like that as often cheap and dangerous.

Cheap, because they are a cheap device for an artist to PLEASE the viewer without offering any true voices on composition, concept, and sometimes even craftsmanship! Most artworks like that often rely exclusively on the “inherent beauty” of the subject matter. The artwork is pretty, because the flower is pretty, or because the woman is pretty. Beyond that, there’s nothing else the artist can offer!

Dangerous, because it reinforces a racist notion that only thin, white women, in their rich, fancy dresses or robes are worthy of being in a painting of beauty. (Also see most advertisements for beauty products around the world).

I have been on a personal journey to directly challenge those notions, trying to prove to myself and the world that what I can offer has true artistic merit, outside of relying solely on outdated presumptions of “conventional beauty” in subject matter. I immensely like to paint portraits, and can confidently say that I’m good at it. Starting early this year I made deliberate efforts in not just incorporating, but centering on painting POC, (and in recognizing the founding of the Lindy Hop community, especially African Americans). It’s my mission statement to directly challenge the status quo of what my viewers consider conventionally “beautiful”.

I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be on this journey, but I think it’s the right time to provide context on where I have been and where I’d like to go.

These past few weeks have been immensely educational for me, and I hope you will join me in supporting, and FOLLOWING a movement towards justice and equity for our family in the African American community.

Thank you for taking your time reading this,

Conan Zhao

Artist @Allaprima XYZ

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© 2020 by Conan Zhao