In November 2017, we launched a new campaign - #SocialCanvas - to highlight the creative expressions of artists that we believe are creating the soundtrack and canvas for the social movements that have taken root across our community and country. Every day with Social Canvas, we aim to inspire dialogue about artists in our community and beyond who are using arts, music, and creative expression to fuel social movements and drive social change.
Today we are highlighting Janine Kwoh, an Associate Partner of Portfolio Performance & Support at New Profit and greeting card designer, and her work inspired by a quote about joy from Aimeé Eubanks Davis, Founder and CEO of Braven, a member of the New Profit's Women's Accelerator.
Artist Statement from Janine Kwoh
Many of the images and narratives that we regularly engage with distort or erase the complexity and diversity of our lived experiences. Mass media shapes our identities and interactions in powerful ways; it teaches us how things "should" be - what love and family should look and feel like, what it means to be beautiful and good, what parts of ourselves can be expressed or should be kept hidden, what we should aspire to and what we're worthy of having. It influences the judgments we make about others, and who we value and invite into our lives. Some likenesses, voices, and stories are well-represented in meaningful and multifaceted ways; conversely, other pieces and people are often reduced to flat characterizations or even non-existence. I believe that expanding the types of images and stories we see and share is critical to radically changing the way we view and treat each other and ourselves, and to moving us toward becoming a truly more inclusive and open society.
In my art, I attempt to shift and splinter prevailing narratives by offering up my own truths - about navigating love and loss, about searching for an authentic voice, about (re)defining family and identity and success, about bearing witness and figuring out what it means to be responsible to ourselves and others. My hope is that others might recognize some of themselves and feel a bit more seen, more connected, and less alone. Much of what I create is about lifting up and embracing that we are all wildly complex and different, and yet at our core are so much of the same - and all of the messiness and beauty and power that comes with holding those two truths together.
In a world that feels increasingly, irreconcilably divided, with enduring systems created and fueled by fear and hate of those we see as different, feelings of anger and grief are both justified and unavoidable, and at times completely overwhelming. I believe that it is especially at these times that we must also create space for joy. In my experience, anger grows out of the pain of injustice and loss, and while it can quickly ignite a movement, it can also drain and burn out. Conversely, joy reminds us what we're fighting to preserve or create. Joy is the heart, a source of fuel that sustains and buoys us, which has a way of determinedly showing up in the most unlikely of circumstances if we let it, and is in some ways both what we're fighting for, and what enables us to keep going.