Artist's Statement - AP Studio Art 2D Portfolio 2023

I think the passage of time through graphic narratives has always drawn me into art.It feels so unreal that it's tantalizing, delicious. Not just the way images tell stories, but how we narratively express the shifting of eras, moments, seconds. To experience time in the same way as another is an impossible level of intimacy, but to at least peek into someone else's perception of the world on such a basic level is still so soft and close. Ever since I was little time has warped for me in ways I don't understand, but find myself vulnerably exhilarated within. Minutes feel like hours, hours feel like seconds, I feel stuck in place while nothing obstructs me, or terror strikes while observing obstacles yet to come, and then I wake up on the other side like it was nothing. Time and movement throughout the world is inherently linked; every second something new and exciting happens. Everything is in constant motion regardless of what our perception tells us, and I feel that because art is unconditionally an expression of ourselves it is reductive for it to be constrained to a freeze frame of what's happening in a specific moment. To me, it should be an evolution. Every stage of our lives is an epoch, an era has come to pass, and finding a visual representation of that on an individual level is the key to forming an intimate, reciprocal connection with anyone who can understand.

Human brains make lots of assumptions, fill in lots of gaps to survive and understand the world around us. One very basic instinct I want to exploit is inferring the passage of time in comics and graphic art, as well as written narratives. I want to use a mix of comics, still art, and restorative pieces to infer change, influence relationships assumed to be linear. I want to express the space between surreality and acute nature, and explore the natural world and the individual stories as they change. My goal with art is to form some sort of connection, to create something that fills me with love and send that out towards an unknown viewer. I've found whenever I lean towards a fast paced, expressionist style, this is more complete in the final pieces I create. However, the time I invest in more detailed pieces tells a story too; it allows the piece to determine its own evolution, to become its own creature, and have its own personality. As an artist I want to learn more about the connections we have with time and sequential storytelling and use them to create beings we didn't know we were missing, but also could not stand to watch grow old.

Personal Analysis of Japanese Breakfast's Heft - 2023

Japanese Breakfast's most personal album, and their debut, Psychopomp, is one of my favorite albums of all time. Michelle Zauner, its composer, has an extensive and ethereal discography beyond this release, but none of her other work has haunted me quite as much as this album does. A huge part of that is how deeply personal Psychopomp is; when Zauner's career was just taking off, her mother suddenly got cancer and died, shattering her world. After that cataclysmic shock, she has channeled her grief, but also her ingenious creativity, into a variety of art forms, culminating in the book Crying in H-Mart as well as the album. I think the significance of these pieces came from their immediacy, written the year after her mother's death when all the emotions were still raw and clear, like shattered pieces of mirror.

Psychopomp's mesmerizing reflections are endlessly inspiring to me; its beautiful sound and striking lyrics kaleidoscope into more than meets the eye, a haunting rhapsody of the phases of grief, life, and growth. I advocate this album as a shrine of understanding of grief in all its forms boiled to a beautiful reduction, poignant and flavorful and achingly beautiful. Its excellence is not only in its technical beauty, but its concise, phantasmal communication of an identity, and the personal value that can have to all of us.

Psychopomp's namesake comes from the Greek word for 'soul guide', a supernatural figure akin to the grim reaper that cares for the recently dead. You can feel the balance between life and death and the search for someone, something to guide you all over this album, instilled in this blue echo that ripples through rare open plains and sunlit rooms and murky waters. Even at the fuschia shines and crescendos of Everybody Wants to Love You, there's a playful rawness that shows how grief bends the arc of a life and how the spaces in between then come to feel like forever. The way Zauner uses guitar pedals to create ethereal sounds distinguishes all of her music, it creates a dream world that not only feels more lucid in this album but underlines her musical voice.

I think my whole life I've had to grapple with a sort of preemptive grief, a sort of coping mechanism for knowing my mother and I's quiet malaise could turn violent and terminal in a flash, and we would never know why. That anticipatory grief that comes from the anxiety volatile illnesses induce is still never complete; it's a coping mechanism - you know the feelings will have to happen someday so you may as well start processing them now. But it's never enough. Psychopomp pulls back that curtain, that pretense. It exposes the painful, anguishing truth: no matter how much you try to prepare, you will never be ready for the death of a parent. It will never be painless, it will never be clean, and it is useless to spend your time with someone grieving them while they are still alive when you know losing them will always tear down your world.

Psychopomp also has a glimmer of feminism and the will to live strung through its lyrics, a powerful undertone in concept that is brought to the forefront of its lyrics. The woman who loves you is a song about Zauner's parents when they were young, and its key lyric - "you should try to do as little harm as you can to the woman that loves you" is about how her mother relentlessly loved her father despite his emotional neglect and dismissal of her, and how it created a rut in their relationship that left her trapped. He still wanted her, so he kept the relationship around, but he would neither commit to her nor let her commit to anything else. This song, as well as many others from psychopomp that relate to this theme, were actually part of a demo release made before the death of Zauner's mother called American sound. It was a tiny, heavy album, and poignant with the hypocritical nature of American relationships and how they disproportionately let women down. The one sided romance ballads that follow, Triple 7 and Jane Cum, also focus on this alternate form of grief- the grief that comes with limbo, and being treated like you are not worth committing to. The following song, rugged country, opens on one of zauner's friends being abused by her boyfriend as a teen, and cascades into a song about having to return alone to one's hometown and clean up the pieces of a life that you had always leaned on, as a woman who had nothing to lean on anymore. My interpretation of the song is Zauner being ripped to shreds by life and having to learn to accept herself as 'damaged' and vulnerable. The whole album carried this theme, which is directly feminist and beautiful. It is about Zauner's journey of accepting her identity when the rock of her life is no longer there to make the world make sense. This story is one that repeats itself through time, and one that all women and afab people have come to known as an alternate coming of age - the necessity to get up, to stand on one's feet, to struggle against life when it explodes and you find no floor beneath your feet and discover that no man will really be there for you.

Heft is a song I relate to so painfully deep, I feel it is the magnum opus of this album in a very subtle way, it is about moving on and moving backwards, which encompasses the effect of grief on the living astonishingly cleanly and completely. For me it stabs like a lovely knife as it is what brought me to this album in the first place, this gorgeous song that has been in my life for years and carries a catharsis like sugar on a wound. It's about the continual struggle that kids of cancer go through: we're constantly grappling with the mortal cloud that looms over this illness that really is just like any other, but it brings this stigma, this anxiety, and this grief with it no matter what the outcome. We do our best to improve ourselves in spite of what we deal with because we genuinely want to prove to ourselves and our communities that we will get through this, that we can be okay, but we always have to retreat back into the darkness at some point, we always have to take care of our parent, we always have to fear for our loved ones, we can't amputate that part of our lives. Heft captures that weight so beautifully, that weight that never goes away. It never does and I think anyone who wants insight into that or understands it and can't find an outlet will find some sweetness in this song, some longing that we try to deny. Heaven is a more brutal version of this- when what we constantly have to live in fear of actually happens, and the shock of being left alone. Everything is laid bare and there's nobody left to reassure you, to occupy the now empty space of your love. I actually never fully knew the lyrics to Heft until I started writing this essay. I think when I was younger I googled them and pushed them away, but this time I was left in a bit of cathartic shock and realization. This album will do that to you, and that's something everyone should experience. This is what good art does- it reminds us of our humanity.

Psychopomp is about the plethora of a period of life that marks the beginning of a new epoch. There is a before and after, and the after is a swirling mess that you know will never go away. I find Zauners interpretation interesting, because her after came when she was older than I was, when she had experienced life in a fuller and more intimate way. Things began to disintegrate at the after, and she turned it into an all encompassing piece of art that becomes the struggle and thrives in it. I don't know if i would have been able to do that if my after had come later, but most of my life will be spent in an after. And there will be more to come. There's no such thing as a linear grief, a clean break from an essential part of one's life. This is where there is a struggle for representation in art about this struggle, many don't understand what a wild and writhing multitude grief is until they experience it- there's simply no way to know otherwise. Zauner has summed this up softly and laid the coping process bare; that is where Psychopomp's ultimate value lies: it's honest approach to complexity. In her work and memoir, she gathers cancer, grief, parental conflict and loss, feminism, multiculturalism, korean, jewish, and queer identity, caregiving, memorial, and creativity in her arms and releases them unbroken into something more. Psychopomp pieces together an experience that so many come to relate to, especially kids of cancer but not only us. Zauner uses this album to put her voice to a culture of sickness and grief and dismissal and love and make it beautiful and precious. I wish this album got more credit as the gut punch of an indie work it is: for those of us who understand, it is clarity and catharsis hit in such a real way, and for those who hopefully never will, it imparts a ghostly empathy, a lesson in being human for all.

Last Child - 2022 Scholastic Regional Gold Key Winner

I am the last child

To sharecroppers and royal tailors,

To evangelists and musicians.

A composer strikes fear in my heart;

The metallic thrum of the lower E string resonates violently in blooms of gorgeous rust.

A farmer lulls my lungs into eustress apathy;

I have nothing to give but love at the altar of cottonseed breezes and cold western zephyrs.

There is a romance to being born from a struggle.

There is a power to knowing where you came from.

But all that control is lost in the piercing heat of their flames-

The weight of your ancestors' baggage as it bursts into flames on your back.

Years of simmering become a new disaster every day,

I hesitate to call it natural.

Spending life at the edge of blows, the edge of my car seat;

Walks at night in hushed bickers, playing nice when it fits their needs.

Pleading for help, only hearing what we already knew.

We do not know what it means.

We can not help you.

When two burned children meet

They spark and love out of debt to themselves, liberated by the knowledge they will be the last.

Yet when they are no longer alone

Everything they made explodes.

It’s only like dropping a match in an oil canister

Nothing compared to the unbound infernos of their ancestors

But like a forest fire to the last child.

The foundation of everything is burned to pieces

And the last child can never see what it was.

Everything from those happy amiable before

Is uprooted, shaking the charred land

Eroding into the river

Until it all crumbles into a hopeless flood,

And they are inundated by a harsh reality of tidal waves and whitewater.

The morning they declared him dead

I think I had already known.

I didn’t shed any tears.

A relieved smile lulled on my face,

As I flicked through pages of a book dripping with rainbows.

My own future traipsed preoccupied along the blinds,

While my past was burned to ash.

At his funeral

I choked on my own salt

As I watched her cry

I watched him falter

For good words, for something to say to those who looked on

Without truly knowing what they were witnessing

The temple was half full

For a man that laid faded blemishes on my fathers arms

That silenced the women who fought to make the world safe for me

Ignored the ridged white lines that pale my skin, like serrated streaks of marble.

I waited

And waited

And waited

For the floodwaters to drop

Before they drowned their last child.

To take a breath that wasn’t a gasp between acrid retorts

And to touch those gilded memories, like nuggets of gold sifted from a dry riverbed

Golden palm grass lawns broken crayon dust reluctant twirls savory spindrift

To either dissolve or become a lifeboat.

But they stayed half rotten

Almost like a joke

Or a punishment.

In the quiet Jewish corner of the cemetery,

Small and cramped, but gracefully sloping like a riverbank,

Sulfur shelves creep up through the soil around their level headstones.

Inky caps leak their desiccated corpses on old diasporic names;

Smooth stones pulled from violent currents

Lay scattered like jacks and dreidels through the fertile soil and granite headstones.

I didn’t miss what lay below

Because I could still feel it under my skin.

Those years of trauma

Were packed into a box

And buried.

I am the last child

To a raw history,

To a raw family.

That could not have expected

Their last child with sea oats and clovers tangled behind strawberry blond hair;

Their last child that didn’t quite talk right and would sooner stand still than look you in the eye;

Their last child with withered blood and eyes that changed colors like a sick dog’s;

Their last child who ran on unstable legs like time was running out;

Their last child that didn’t want to choose a side;

And their last child that was all of them combined.

My brittle cold shoulder

Was always quite weak, fragile.

You always said I held thoughts back like a compliment.

And the issue is that I do

I do,

I do,

I do.

You were always too burned out to say anything new.

It’s too late now, but I already knew it was the beginning of the end.

I feel on the verge of that frozen joint giving out

Structurally victim to my selfish desire

To be the first child of something whole.

The Haunting -2022

The haunted house in the valley of sea oats and buckthorns

was soaked to the bone with dusty sunlight. Death is an event

in the life of something too austerely simple to understand.

Stardust doesn't die;

Doesn't cease to exist;

Doesn't cease to love doing so.

But for some muddled reason

A mortal death is so drowned in grief and sadness,

That life feels:becomes lost

And it feels not like a door has closed,

But like you reach the end of the hallway and there's nothing there.

When one is consumed by the state of their death,

v You watch everything they built

Every molded detail you provided with care

Sardonically cave in on them

And the body is never found.

The end.

As if the living were temporary,

And the corpse is lifeless.

In reality there is little to be sad about

Other than the imagined emptiness.

And the unbearable pain, the ache in the chest as your heart beats frantically

The way your throat strains and sags

like you're being asphyxiated by sap-candied chrysanthemum petals and bloodied rose thorns.

The way your whole body spasms, motion matching the mental distress

Of knowing that another lies still.

Everybody knows, somehow, that it doesn't have to be that way.

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The way we make ourselves feel is sad.

It hurts so much

To grieve


When the living step back

And their breathing slows,

(The calm after the hurricane)

When the ache calms to a smolder

And the tears run dry

The world keeps turning.




Everything is okay.

The living feel the rush of blood in their ears

As they awake from their vivid dreams

And let their painfully stiff fingers melt

Into the light of the cloudy morning sun.

The dead have an after too.

The calm after the hurricane is not exclusive to those just awakening

to something old and new.

They know that they have shut the door as quietly as they could

And their footsteps echo down the musty corridor

As they see your eyes flutter open,

And turn away respectfully

Toward whatever comes next.





For them what came was a home.

The sordidly pleasant pair knew they were dead,

But they could not feel enough of anything to grieve.

They had been young, they had been thoughtful.

The windy valley by the sage kissed coast sent a thrill through their veins.

They had looked at each other knowing that day would come

And chose not to live in wait

But to create things that could never die.

They adorned them all over the already dilapidated house,

Now waterlogged and bursting at the seams,

(They could feel every drop as it fell from the roof)

So now they could look at the ceiling

And see the colorful pieces of life their


and blood

and skeleton phalanges

And each of those miniscule bursts of electricity (now the only thing left),

Buried in the stringent pink muscle that used to be their brain,

Had made.

When the flood came

Their perfect world was horrid.

Their living hearts had fluttered in fear

as each drop skipped the roof and each wave roared out on the porch.

No matter how many times they decided nothing scared them,

The rising tide

And dark, shimmering streets

haunted them.

The only fear they felt

Was that human dread of the unknown

But as their lungs filled with water

Their thoughts filled with peace

As somehow, they knew this wasn't the end.





Seconds after their hearts stopped

Their electric souls hummed dimly in the waves

And as the tide sank

And the sun lapped at the puddles on the sidewalk

their hands stretched through the ceiling

And their feet sank into the ground, just a little.

Condensed vapors.

Not like their bodies

But rather like their nerves.


Their eyes of rain

Their nerves cased in tempered clarity.

As they felt the ants crawl through their heavily awake limbs,

they were so shudderingly aware

that their existence had disrupted an order they didn't understand.

They couldn't hold hands

But they could see the decrepit old photograph in which they did,

Drenched in the flood, but just as lovely,

as if through a fisheye lens.





The house that drowned them had become an awkward home.

They could leave, anytime.

They could be, anything.

But they wanted to be here.

The two felt more connected to it now than ever,

at the same time, a disappointment

hung listlessly in the air

Just above imitated wisps of cloudy hair and gestured secrets

As they mastered their new watery vessels.

They never truly believed in a heaven

But both had hoped for something more.

They found there was little left to do here.

Their pallorous faces lost definition,

Smoke in the shattered mirrors that wilted from the wall,

And they forgot what it was like to be seen.

They had their fill of rest.

It seemed all they did.

They had no shape or form

But they always saw each other in whatever way they wanted

The monocot leaves bumping against the door

The fog clouds the cracks of glass on the ground

The moth eaten clothes in the bedroom drawer, caked in mold

Their painting

Their piano

The scratches on the wall from a racoon family rooting patiently through their acrid pantry

stepping lightly over their empty, rotted old vessels.

And they could feel whatever they wanted to feel,

Without that living guilt

Of wasting time on the things that matter.

There was a freedom to the surprise of it.

They had those few numb months, where nothing really mattered and no mortal obligation meant anything at all.

They coped quite well, at first.

The shimmering duo playfully chose new names,

Symbolic that they were not what they thought they were,

But they were still themselves.

The relief of fully knowing a carefully labeled, but fundamental truth about one another

that would have sent blood flushing to their cheeks

And light sparkling in their eyes as they looked at each other in excitement.

Calathea and Coda.

A new leaf

And the end of the beginning

The closing of a chapter

And the start of something new.



How are we going to stay…okay?

What do you mean?

Honestly I don't know. I'm not scared, but I'm…

I don't want to rest just yet.

I'm worried there's a purpose we are supposed to find,

but I do not know what that is.

In all those old ghost stories,

they said we're supposed to have unfinished business,

yet I feel no regret, or connection to life.

I don't want to look back, or fake regret.

Maybe that's what we do then.

We let go of those old preconceptions, and make something new.

But we're too new. We're an anomaly. We don't even know what we are.

But…our souls. What's left of who we are. Doesn't it feel ambiguous?

Are we going to keep losing pieces of ourselves?

Divided into fractions of whatever we once were? Starting over and over and over?

I suppose so, but what if this is the next step? Like a personal evolution.

From whatever we were, to whoever we've become.

It's okay, we have time to figure this out. All the time in the world.

That's an…eternity.



We've always existed, and we always will. The only permanence is that nothing ever ends.

That means we have all the time in the world

to be okay,

to not be okay,

to think,

to process.

To refine,

to build.


I trust you.

They started a garden.

They craved to be just as much a part of earth

as the water they had unnaturally assumed.

They found that they were like sentient substance

Electrified water that could feel, that could grow

All those messages floating through their brains

Had become a loving fog that rolled over the land

And saturated it's home with patience.

They searched in the dirt, reached through the earth's rain studded pores.

The seeds had been pressed brutally to the dirt,

Crushed by the waves into the sky's wrinkled bed.

The calm skies, empty of a search, felt hollow.

The frantic people and heartbroken bustle and passive rescue

All had moved on

Without them.

They didn't know how to feel, but it didn't sting.

The two decided to take on something quiet and slow

And cultivated the seeds nestling through the soil.

Their fog hid the little garden from the sharp toothed deer

And they giggled as cloven hooves tracked mud through their muted home.

They shuffled through pages of water drenched books

And played mad libs with the washed out ink.

They were happy.

The grief never cut too sharp;

It wasn't as if they had lost each other.

The rosemary and coneflowers glowed like coral in the evening sun

Calathea could almost see their hand

Softly outlined against the droplets dripping from the pale, blue tinged marigolds

They had planted years ago

with fingers

smeared in dirt.






Seasons came and went

And they began to feel the cold.

They lingered quietly against the house's walls

Because despite their artistic passiveness

It bothered them.

Their old ways of frantic creation, coping, growing,

The art

The medicine

The holding each other's hand and giving a tight squeeze

Were stripped away with their flesh as it rotted from their hollowed bones.

They knew nothing.

They knew everything.

They knew each other.

They knew they were tired.

It hurt.

It scared them.

All the lively, turbulent emotions they thought had rotted into Angels of Death and Sporocarps

Reeked in their rainy tears

And the dew on the jagged primrose leaves.

Years ago, they had wanted everything

They wanted to see it all

But now their souls were cramped in the backyard

With the beautiful weeds

They had cultivated with their rest.

They were scared to try and see the world

And ruin the surprise

But also, to find everything alien.

Nobody bothered them in their house of memories

But they did not know if they could bear the weight of the livings pretentious world.

The two knew

The people they longed to see again

And cried at their funerals

Could have been out there

While they would have been tied to one place.

They continued tending to the garden, but the love felt

as faded as their original childish desire

to appear as misty moths or dreary crows or smiling plumes of smoke in the wind

Calathea didn't understand why they felt lonely.

And Coda missed their neighbor's cat that used to nudge their hand when it was lonely.

When the thought crossed their head that moving on meant more than staying in place

They lost their form

They lost their sense of self

The ache came back

Calathea could see, and they shared the pain.

Cal, what if we're missing something?

How would we know?

The seeds of doubt began to grow in their immortal garden

The fact was that they had returned to stasis

All those dreams of growth and freedom

And that instinct kept them in place

What if we leave? Would we evaporate?

What if we stay? Would it be any different?




This was only ever going to be temporary, love.




Either way, we're just stardust. We cannot hurt more than we already have.

I'll go if you hold my hand.

I will.

A tendril of ivy wrapped around Calathea's old orchid tree

And gave it a gentle squeeze.

They could feel it

In their tingling fingers

Like the warm, bumbling sensitivity

That comes from pinching a sleeping limb.

The ghosts had all the time to think

On their haunted house in the valley.

And they decided that if their old water logged home,

With paintings dripping off the canvases,

the rising sun gilding chipped glass windows,

Was the sun of their eternity,

Their center of orbit

Their magnetic pole

Drawing them in with love and memories and seeds washed deep into the dirt,

They were stars

not in orbit

Not free floating




But connected by the boundaries of their imagination

And the lucid dream that was intention

And the weird, sleeplike weight of their condensed hearts.

It was so hard not to care about those question words the living pondered.

They had no new knowledge when their souls left their bodies.

No cosmic foundation,

No philosophical ground;

Their mortality had been thrust aside by the whims of nature

And they no longer had anything to chase.

They no longer had an endpoint

A finish line.

Anything beyond

the void ahead

the collapsing home

Was just a trick of the mind.

They gave up on the fantasy that everything was meaningless

They always knew it wasn't true, but it had been a subtext to their idea of the world

They didn't want to just be the ghosts that haunted the house on the hill.

They wanted to be spirits


Those mystical things that aren't invested in reality

But in understanding

The two entities held hands

And departed from their ragged garden

And grazed the chipped paint with their fingers

And stepped silently through their decaying front door.

They drifted in the wind

Cascading over the changing world.

There was no beginning or end;

Just the interim of a connection

that survived the rot of time.