Jonathan Chang says he wants his portraits to catch your attention and make you ask questions.
Who are these people?
Why did he draw them?
Why do they go viral on social media?
“I do not feel like doing this about myself,” he said.
Chang agreed to speak to NBC, but did not want his face shown because he wants the art of speaking for himself. He wants to start talks that he thinks should still have, as pandemic-related Asian hatred has increased in America.
“They’re about the victims,” he said.
His portrait of Michelle Go attracts you. It’s as accessible as the bright smile on her face until you discover what happened to her last week in New York.
She was pushed in front of a train by a stranger.
“She was 40 years old and her whole life was taken from her,” Chang said.
Scroll further down the Chang’s instagram feed and you will see Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84.
The Thai American was attacked in broad daylight in San Francisco a year ago.
“It made me really angry,” Chang said.
It was one of his first efforts at the advice of a friend. It was a way to channel his emotions into something that catches attention and makes you think.
He has never considered himself a “fine artist”, but now he uses his skills as a commercial illustrator to catch the eye.
Then he draws your attention to the bigger problem: these people are innocent, victims of a narrative that all too often leads to violence.
He calls his style “easily digestible.” But it gets the job done.
“People comment on my posts and say, ‘I had no idea this was going on. I live in the same area.'”
A few days ago, the portraits appeared on the massive billboard over Times Square, part of the ongoing campaign to combat Asian hatred.
“The whole Asian community we are connected to and we really care about this,” he said. “If I can inspire at least one person, it’s all worth it.”