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The New Yorker Illustrates Asian Fears Subtly Yet Poignantly On Magazine Cover
By Mikelle Leow, 01 Apr 2021
Image by R. Kikuo Johnson for The New Yorker
The hangover from the pandemic has seen a spike in hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans in the United States, including the March 16 Atlanta spa shootings that saw six Asian women being killed.
In The New Yorker magazine’s April 5 cover, artist R. Kikuo Johnson mirrors the anxious body language of Asian residents as they trudge through the humdrum of life in fear. An Asian woman is depicted holding her daughter’s hand as they wait at a subway platform, and the young girl is shown looking over her shoulder, expecting and dreading something.
It’s a quiet piece, so quiet that it becomes unsettling. You can almost feel the tension crawling up your back.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss microexpressions in the artwork, entitled Delayed, are likely to hit home among Asians in the US, from the daughter’s gaze and the tight grip of their hands to the mother’s protective stance and her nervously checking the time.
Meanwhile, the wide negative space of the train platform ahead seems to invoke a weight of uncertainty.
“The position of the mother’s feet and eyebrows was what required the most finessing,” the artist told the magazine, per Mashable. “I wanted a gesture that was somewhere between vigilant and fearful.”
As a mixed-race Asian man, the recent attacks have struck a chord with him. “I imagined my own mom in that situation,” Johnson added. “I thought about my grandma and my aunt, who have been among my greatest sources of support. The mother in the drawing is made up of all these women.”
It was a painful undertaking, but Johnson pored over reports of hate crimes against Asians to capture this closeted anxiety.
“Fundamentally, I think the hope is to eradicate the idea that Asian bodies are inherently foreign,” he concluded.
[via Mashable, cover image by R. Kikuo Johnson for The New Yorker]
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