Art & Development

A New Bandanna Design: See the Good in People

blue bandanna with calligraphy in teal and white, stating, notice small acts of kindness and connection; see the good in people

See the Good in People, 2020, two-color screenprint on cotton bandanna, 20×20 inches. Available on ChristineWongYap.com.

I have been making bandannas for a few years. I see them as mementos that remind us of our core beliefs and express them to others.
I recognize that recommendations to cover faces in public may freight the timing of the release of this bandanna. I actually designed this bandanna prior to these guidelines.
This text was inspired from an unfortunate personal experience I had in a public space last December. Strangers stopped to help, share sympathy, offer soothing commendations, and accompany me when I had to speak up.
After, my brain kept returning to the physical sensation of the incident, which triggered feelings of loathing, vulnerability, and self-pity. But I deliberately shifted my attention to the kindness of strangers.
This helped me re-write the story from one of misfortune to one of faith in humanity. It also became an experience of self-knowledge: because I changed my negative feelings into positive ones, I felt powerful.
I learned that seeing the good in people is sort of a superpower.
I would be thrilled if this bandanna helped to lessen some of fear and division of our present moment and to increase our awareness of connection and togetherness.
I’ve launched a new Shop page to sell this bandanna, as well as some reprints of previously sold-out bandannas from the Belonging project, and other zines and books.
I’m a working artist. Over the past few weeks, some of my day jobs and freelance gigs have been postponed or canceled. Your support is greatly appreciated. The funds also help me pay Forthrite Printing, the artist-run, small business in Oakland, CA who printed these.
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Projects

Three Elements of Resilience for Better Coping

Some potentially useful skills and abilities of resilience.

I’ve been studying resilience over the past few months, and a few concepts with have been useful to me recently. 

Putting It In Perspective

Seeing the bigger picture, and paying attention to those who have it worse than us, can help make our problems seem relatively minor.

Drawing in pinks, reds, and purples of building blocks. Title: Seven Skills of resilience. There are seven building blocks, each labeled with a skill: Learning ABCs (adversity, beliefs, consequences). Avoiding Thinking Traps. Detecting Icebergs. Challenging Beliefs. Calming and Focusing. Putting it in Perspective. Realtime resilience.

For example, if you or your loved ones aren’t among the most vulnerable, and your priorities right now are non-life threatening, nor about serious economic hardship, it could be possible that they’re first-world problems. Trying to stick too stubbornly to your plans, being upset and inflexible about disruptions, and prioritizing personal gains or achievement goals might be over-investing in relatively minor concerns (over which you probably have limited control anyway).

It’s important for everyone to work together to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Personally, I’m relieved that employers, businesses, and organizations are temporarily closing to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. (This is a great example of society leading when government is flailing.) It’s a time for cooperation and making sacrifices for the vulnerable—as well as their caretakers and all health care workers.

Optimism

Recognizing when to be optimistic, and what we can control.

When to use optimism

Everyday, we’re evaluating risks and making decisions.

I love optimism, optimists, and being optimistic whenever possible. Still, I recognize the limits of optimism. When grave consequences are at stake, be wary of being too optimistic. (Trump’s bluster and uninformed overconfidence are so disrespectful of people’s intelligence and the gravity of COVID-19.) If you’re making a decision that could impact health—yours or society’s as whole—err on the side of caution.

Drawing on gridded vellum. Title: When to use optimism. Red circle

From Positive Signs, a series of 60 drawings interpreting positive psychology research and more. 2011, glitter and/or fluorescent pen with holographic foil print on gridded vellum, 11 x 8.5 inches.

On the other hand, if you’re making a decision with lower consequences, choose optimism. For example, maybe you want to check in on an elderly neighbor but you’re worried about social awkwardness. In the best case scenario, it’s welcome and helpful, and you both feel good. In the worst case, it’ll be awkward, not that big a deal.

What we can control

As Karen Reivich, PhD and Andrew Shatté, PhD, define it in “The Resilience Factor,” being optimistic is to believe we control the direction of our lives.

A drawing in bright chartreuse with a

From a suite of drawings I’m currently working on about resilience.

There is a lot we can’t control right now—travel restrictions, closures of businesses and schools, and diverted plans.

So what can we control?

We can be creative in fostering connection despite the disruptions. For example, sharing photos of families instead of photos of empty shelves and commiseration memes (H/T artist Risa Puno).

We can gather resources and share knowledge.

We can try to use time at home productively, such as brainstorming ways to generate income. [Artists can work on applications, update websites and CVs, and improve art storage and inventory records. For example, I recently make boxes for art that I’ve been meaning to pack.]

Or, we can choose to see the restrictions on movement as a chance to rest, reflect, and practice self-care (such as using yoga instructional videos on YouTube instead of going to the gym), or doubling down on our support of neighbors and our communities.

We can choose to take steps to manage anxiety, and stop obsessing about coronavirus news (H/T artist jenifer k wofford).

Reaching Out

For Reivich and Shatté, reaching out is both a skill of resilience as well as a use of resilience. One definition they offer is to enhance the positive aspects of life.

A colored pencil drawing in green and black. Shown: of an arm reach up with the text,

From a series of drawings on resilience currently in progress. 2020, colored pencil on paper, 12 x 9 inches.

We are in an unprecedented time, when everyday brings scary news, anxiety is high, and everyone is coping with uncertainty. This is a recipe for poor mental health. Balance the negative with positive: connection, joy, humor, generosity. I love the videos of Italians singing from balconies, and Iranian doctors dancing. These are much-needed reminders of the human spirit and resilience.

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Research

To Bring Into Being an Optimistic Future

Recent points of reference about psychology, anxiety, and the need to be intentional about optimism and humor. Plus artworks made when I was first learned about positive psychology at the beginning of the Obama presidency.

 

Christine Wong Yap. Stars and Stripes from the Pounds of Happiness installation, 2009, mixed media.

Christine Wong Yap. Stars and Stripes from the Pounds of Happiness installation, 2009, mixed media.

We live in a world where there is a constant feed from social media, the news, etc., of things that can scare us, and we become so anxious because human beings are designed to be sensitized to dangerous stuff. You get a bad review as a writer, you remember it for 10 years. You get 100 good reviews, you forget them all. You say hello to 100 people in a city, and it doesn’t mean anything to you. One racist comment passes by, it sticks with you a decade. We keep the negative stuff because it’s the negative stuff that’s going to—potentially—kill us. That fin in the water—maybe it is a shark. That yellow thing behind a tree—maybe it is a lion. You need to be scared. But contemporary culture in Pakistan, just like in America, is continuously hitting us with scary stuff, and so we are utterly anxious.

I think that it’s very important to resist that anxiety, to think of ways of resisting the constant inflow of negative feelings—not to become depoliticized as a result, but to actually work actively to bring into being an optimistic future. For me, writing books and being someone who is politically active is part of that. I don’t want to be anxious in my day-to-day life; I want to try to imagine a future I’d like to live in and then write books and do things that, in my own small way, make it more likely that that future will come to exist.

—Author Mohsin Hamid (“Pakistani Author Mohsin Hamid And His Roving ‘Discontent’,’ Fresh Air, March 9, 2017)

 

Christine Wong Yap, Cheap and Cheerful #3, 2009, gel pen on paper, A4.

Christine Wong Yap, Cheap and Cheerful #3, 2009, gel pen on paper, A4.

…one of the offshoots of the rise of Trump has been to rob many liberals of their sense of humor. To pay close attention to the news is to trap oneself in a daily cycle of outrage, self-righteousness, a pained recognition of the inelegance of that self-righteousness, and, finally, a feeling of futility. Part of what made the Women’s March so powerful was its scenes of comedy, not simply the signs that mocked the President but those that recognized the joyousness in the very of act of protest.

…Constant vigilant outrage is not only exhausting, and eventually deflating, but it’s ill suited to liberal culture, which is suffused with a healthy dose of self-awareness, self-mockery, and even self-loathing. There’s a reason conservatives control talk radio, with all its grim certitude, and liberals run comedy, which is characterized by, among others things, ambivalence.

—Ian Crouch, “This Is The Future That Liberals Want” Is The Joke That Liberals Need, NewYorker.com, March 3, 2017

 

Christine Wong Yap, Unlimited Promise, 2009/2010, installation.

Christine Wong Yap, Unlimited Promise, 2009/2010, installation.

 

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Values

Life’s Too Short for Poor Habits of Mind

Recommended: an essay on freeing oneself from energy-sapping forces. It’s inspired by turning 60, but the call to preserve one’s attention for the truly worthwhile and to care for one’s emotional well-being applies at any age.

“Young(er) women, take this to heart: Why waste time and energy on insecurity? … I’m happy to have a body that is healthy, that gets me where I want to go…

What matters most is the work. Does it give you pleasure, or hope? Does it sustain your soul? …I’m too old for the dark forces, for hopelessness and despair…

Toxic people? Sour, spoiled people? I’m simply walking away… Take a pass on bad manners, on thoughtlessness, on unreliability, on carelessness and on all the other ways people distinguish themselves as unappealing specimens. Take a pass on your own unappealing behavior, too: the pining, yearning, longing and otherwise frittering away of valuable brainwaves…

My new mantra is liberating… I spare myself a great deal of suffering… goodbye to all that has done nothing but hold us back.”

Dominique Browning, “I’m Too Old for This” (NY Times, August 8, 2015)
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Citizenship

Welcome the New: Bay Area Society for Art and Activism is here

My dear friend ET has been collaborating with genius Bay Area artists and activists to lay the groundwork for a new, optimistic organization. And they’re launching now!

Check out their Arts & Activism Quarterly; it features an interview with moi about the nineties, activism, and art, and includes tons of orgs and people that have inspired me.

It also hosts the beautifully-shot, poignant trailer for “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” by Joe Talbot.

Talbot is among the many artists that will be featured in the Society’s kickoff party this Saturday night. It’s where I’d be, if I were in SF this weekend.

for more info see http://artandactivism.org/overnight-strange/

Overnight Strange Flyer

Sue me; I’m feeling optimistic, too. Before we dive into the season of gluttony and shopping mayhem, here’s where I’ve put my money, and if you are able, maybe you can too:

  • The Lab’s triumphant return spearheaded by Dena Beard. Keeping SF weird, loud, and experimental.
  • May Day Space, a cultural worker/education/organiging space led by a diverse crew in Bushwick.
  • The Society, of course! Become a member! We won’t concede SF so easily!
  • W.A.G.E. for Work. Six days left to go in their campaign to bring justice for all artists!
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Bob and Roberta Smith, Art Does Real and Permanent Good 2011, enamel on found material, 8.5 x 12 x 1 inches

Bob and Roberta Smith, Art Does Real and Permanent Good, 2011, enamel on found material, 8.5 x 12 x 1 inches // Source: Pierogi2000.com.

Works

Bob and Roberta Smith, Art Does Real and Permanent Good, 2011

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Art & Development

Dream a little group show for you

The Bronx AIM program has started and I am enjoying the first assignment immensely. We were asked to present the artists who would be in our dream group show–to convey the ideal context for showing one’s own works. I started thinking of all the artists I love, all the projects that share sympatico with my practice, and the potential of new site-specific commissions. I imagined very established artists in dialogue with less recognized but completely worthy friends. I envisioned an exhibition copy of a high value seminal work of a blue chip artist made as a public sculpture. Then I situated it all at a local non-art  site brimming with potential. This exercise made me think of many people, actions, and possibilities that make art seem like an expansive, generous realm. It provided me with welcome hope and enthusiasm. Try it!

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