Editor’s Note: Leon Sun and Nancy Hom developed the following poster as we were planning the Chinese Americans Support Tsuru for Solidarity art workshop in San Francisco Chinatown. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the workshop due to shelter in place order. Let this image and other expressions continue to keep our spirits alive as we navigate these uncertain times. Leon Sun also provides the following commentary on his approach to arts and activism.
Freedom for All, 2020, Nancy Hom and Leon Sun
This image, with the Statue of Liberty torch and four ethnic profiles that comprise the flame, symbolizes that freedom is everyone’s right. At a recent Tsuru for Solidarity planning meeting organized by Eddie Wong, Leon Sun showed his sketch of the Statue of Liberty torch, an easily recognizable icon. It reminded Nancy Hom of one of the designs she had created for the Asian Law Caucus in 2006, which was not used. We decided to collaborate. Leon added the bold type next to her graphic of the torch and profiles. Its placement on the poster echoes the shape of the torch. The slogan, “Freedom for All,” expresses a call for all Americans to recommit to a quintessentially American ideal.
My art has always been engaged with whatever social reality I find myself in. But there are two different approaches. One is working with others on specific political actions, such as graphic design for the No Dakota Access Pipe Line (NoDAPL) movement and now, the Tsuru for Solidarity actions. In these cases, It’s the energy from fellow activists that inspire me the most. It is a very collaborative process in which I am but one contributor.
With the other approach, ideas and motivation come about organically as I live my life. Sometimes it begins with an impulse from the subconscious, sometimes it is triggered by external events that have a powerful emotional impact on me. Often, the “meaning” of any particular artwork is not clear till it manifests itself through the creative process. My art is an affirmation of the human spirit, a way to connect with others and with nature.
Hope 2017, Silkscreen print, 22” x 17”
On the night Trump won the election I was in the middle of printing this Daoism inspired image. For a moment I asked myself, what good is making “pretty” art at a time like this? I quickly answered myself – to assert our narrative, our values, our experience. To every bit of ugliness Trump and his ilk throw at us I will counter it with beauty. Our culture makes us powerful and whole.
The caterpillar is a symbol of hope and resilience – relentlessly pushing on… eating… eating to live, to grow, to fully realize itself as it becomes a butterfly.
Say a Prayer 2019, Silkscreen print, 24” x 18”
Last year, I felt a deep sadness over the death and beaching of the beautiful giants. I also felt anger at the disrespect shown by people taking selfies, allowing their children to climb all over it, and how the news media treated it as a sensational spectacle.
I decided to use my art to restore the whale’s dignity and let beauty be the antidote to grief.
The ship on the horizon denotes human activity that, in the pursuit of wealth, is both clueless and careless of its effect on its surroundings. This whale could have been injured by the ship but it moves on as if nothing happened. Capitalism accepts no responsibility for collateral damage.
Artist Bio: Leon Sun was the art director of East Wind magazine and designed the current banner used by East Wind ezine. To learn more about Leon Sun’s work, visit http://leonsunartist.com/