Photos by Morgan Rindengan
If you’ve ventured down to Chinatown, Los Angeles recently, you might have had the good fortune to come across new work from Lauren YS.
The Los Angeles-based artist has been hard at work bringing to life an incredible mural on the side of 1700 Naud; a work that both celebrates their Asian heritage and brings solace to a community that has born the brunt of racist vitriol well beyond the horrific hate crimes of recent weeks. Influenced by dreams, mythology, animation and their Chinese heritage, Lauren has created a vibrant and symbolic mural that calls for an end to Asian hate and the need to protect elders within their community, who hold positions of great respect within many Asian cultures. Lauren YS creations have found their way onto walls and surfaces everywhere from Melbourne to Iceland, and Monster Children couldn’t be more chuffed to have one of their murals on the side of our gallery space at a time when the AAPI community needs all the support and love it can get. I caught up with Lauren after the mural was wrapped and ready to find out more.
Your mural is incredible! What do you love celebrating most about your Asian heritage?
Thank you! I think making friendships, alliances and connections with others through heritage is one of the greatest and richest gifts that being Asian-American has afforded me. I am mixed, so my knowledge and connection to my Chinese heritage are limited, but I am constantly humbled to learn more and more fully enrich my understanding of where my family comes from through the friendships and lived-in knowledge of the people around me.
You said in one of your posts that the ‘antidote to hate is joy’. What joy have you been able to find during these particularly hateful few weeks?
I’m humbled beyond words by the support and strength I’ve seen from the community in this time. The friends and partners who have each put their energy into spreading awareness have inspired and bolstered me so much. My friends at Static Medium, a print company in DTLA, also offered to print and ship the Stop Asian Hate Crimes posters as a donation to the cause, and it’s offerings of resources and energy like this that really give me such a deep sense of joy and hope. I also can’t express how lovely it was to share light and sunshine with those who came out during the unveiling; I hope everyone was able to gain a little bit of comfort after an entire year of being shut away.
Can you explain why it was so important to you to include a reference to elders within this work?
I lost my Popo (grandmother) a few months before the pandemic hit and went into kind of a dark space of grief, but also this amplified fear of losing my heritage as I’ve lost both of my grandparents on my Mom’s side, and as such, my most lived-in link to being Chinese. So I have been working on a body of work trying to retell my grandmother’s stories and create physical connections to my heritage throughout the pandemic, and spending a lot of time contemplating ancestors, connections to the past, and elders.
In this time, I also met my partner Ihui who is Taiwanese, who also introduced me to our friend Peter Lai, who is a legendary designer and purveyor of Asian culture in the LA art scene. We spent the pandemic helping Peter move his warehouse full of Asian treasures to a new spot, and it was sort of this powerful connection back to an older generation. Peter’s friendship has been an extremely immediate reminder of the irreplaceable role that elders play in our lives as Asian-Americans. We honour our elders with such gravity that it hurt doubly powerfully to see them being targeted in the midst of pandemic-era vitriol.
Did you use any particular symbolism within the artwork?
The border elements are derived from an ‘eternal knot’ design, which is a pervasive visual throughout asian culture. I wanted to make sure to keep all imagery non-specific, as so much of the conversation emphasises the need to understand that Asian-Americans are not a monolith, there is so much diversity in our stories. So, the tigers are meant to capture power from an Asian sphere of the world. The central symbolism is centred around altars that many Asian cultures create to honour family and ancestors. Candles honour parents and grandparents, fruits are offerings for vitality and the next life, and the peach represents the memory of the victims of the shooting in Georgia.
What do you hope that your mural gives to the people who visit or pass by?
I hoped to create a space where anyone could contemplate, find community, grieve or find power, the way they might at an altar, should they wish.
How can people support the AAPI community via your work?
We offer microgrants via @squidtropica for queer BIPOC artists, to which you can donate at Venmo @squidtropica, or we are also offering posters of a similar design to the mural from Static Medium. All proceeds go back to AAPI community.