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With Softness and Power by Amanda Phingbodhipakkia

Updated: Feb 12

In March 2021, TIME magazine released an issue with a front cover called “With Softness and Power.” New York-based artist and educator Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya says it “reflects the immeasurable strength of Asian American women who are the connective tissue of our communities, yet too often overlooked, fetishized, dehumanized and underestimated.” Born in 1992 in Atlanta, Georgia, to Thai and Indonesian immigrants, Amanda uses her artwork to tell stories and amplify voices that aren’t being heard.

The artwork was originally created for the NYC Commission on Human Rights’ 2020 public art series “I Still Believe in Our City.” One version of the picture was present at a fall art installation in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenues-Barclays Center subway station. Many of Amanda’s works have appeared in multiple subway stations, bus shelters, and other public places to support the harassment that members of AAPI went through during the pandemic. At one of the very subway stations where her art sat, Amanda herself experienced racism. While she was taking her seat in the subway, a man next to her said, “Ew, gross.” Unfortunately, this was not her first time having discrimination directed towards her.

In the past, Amanda majored in neuroscience at Columbia University, which she believes steered her perspective of art. She is incredibly interested in how the brain deal with rejection and claims, “My practice of making the invisible visible—whether it’s microscopic worlds or the often unseen struggles of communities of color—comes from the same place of revealing the unsung or the unseen.”

Her art also uses symbolism with the choice of flowers. “The peony symbolizes solidarity and friendship, the chrysanthemum signifies resilience—it’s one of the few flowers that blooms when it’s cold—and the hawthorn berry represents longevity and protection.”

Artwork is not always a decoration; it reflects society as it exists but can also be a driver to change. Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya used it to prove a point. She stated, “My hope is to see the beauty of our people reflected in the colors of our communities in a dignified and respectful way.”

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