Yen Ha's American life is a full one
Today’s new edition is an extra special one. Artist, architect, writer, cool mom, superwoman, and close friend of 20x200 Yen Ha presents the ever-so-aptly titled edition: A Full Life. Packed with close-up vignettes of childhood milestones, park picnics, summer vacations, and silly glances, A Full Life envelops you in familial love.
Yen adapted A Full Life from Family Chronicles, a series of digital illustrations included in SaveArtSpace’s public art exhibition ASIANS BELONG HERE. The exhibition brought together emerging and established artists to transform billboards in NYC into one-of-a-kind works of art that shed light on anti-Asian violence. The COVID-19 pandemic brought on a wave of racially motivated harassment of Asian Americans across all major US cities. In NYC alone, the NYPD reported a 1,900% increase in hate-fueled attacks on Asian Americans in 2020. The showcase used public spaces not only to spread the message of stopping anti-Asian hate but also to welcome a dialogue about belonging.
Yen’s billboard began as individual illustrations based on actual photographs and events from personal albums, collaged to construct a story of “longing to belong” in America while simultaneously allowing your cultural values and family traditions to flourish.
A Full Life expands on its predecessor, exploring how time shapes memories, oscillating between objective truth and subjective longing. It’s an undeniably relatable sensation. As your eyes meander through the captured moments, you can’t help but build storylines in your mind. A hot afternoon in the backyard kiddie pool. A spontaneous trip to the beach. Who’s that standing next to grandpa? Whatever happened to that old yellow hat? A Full Life is a family album in surround sound.
Yen invites us in to share in her reminiscence. Departing from the fine lines and dark tones of her 20x200 debut series She Is, Yen employs simplified forms and pops of bright color to create an abstract amalgamation of memories. Each vignette has an ephemeral quality, as if we’re remembering each brief moment along with her. Delicate, undetailed facial features allow the distinct shapes and postures of each character to serve as identifiers. Mom’s shoulder scrunch when she laughs. Grandpa’s “let me tell you a story” embrace. A little cousin’s bowl-cut phase.
A Full Life is about the many ways Asians have made America their home. And it’s impossible not to weave your own nostalgia into this reflection of a shared home. It’s a celebration of culture and commonalities, and above all else, A Full Life.