Do you consider yourself an artist?
Yes, because I find a passion in creating art.

What does “artists” mean to you?
“Artists” are powerful people who hold visions that mediums in art allow them to express. These are people who take time to understand others, emotions, nature, issues, and a lot more that is out in the world.

Do you have a specific art form that you work within, or is creativity more of a spectrum for you?
I am indecisive when it comes to choosing one form of art that I suits me the most, so I like to combine different mediums. In particular, however, I am on the side of abstract, illustrative, and conceptual when it comes to drawing and photography. 

What inspires you?
Anything that I can experience or interests me inspires me. When it comes to looking for conceptual inspiration, I usually think of the positives and negatives in my life right now, sometimes from my childhood. When I draw, I get inspired by the diversity of people and fashion.

How does your inspiration manifest?
My inspiration manifests the most when I put myself into my work. I have been discovering this as being the main character of my recent photographic sequences. I think the meaning for these pieces have been made strong because of my role, which truly helps to narrate my own stories the best.

Do you think there is a focal point in your life that put you on this path?
No. From my childhood to now, I think my constant interest in creating things have led up to this point of wanting to be an artist. No matter what the outcome was, I have always wanted to express myself through making. When I became distracted by pressures to go off this path, I would always end up back to creating art, which made me realize that I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

What is your greatest aspiration?
Happiness is my greatest aspiration.

Who, if anyone, do you look up to?
I look up to my close friends. These are people who are able to accept me and people who I can accept, which I think is special. The reason why I look up to them is because they are strong and courageous in their personalities, they have characteristics that I seem to lack but admire them for.

What do you think defines you?
I think my decisions and my art define me. Decisions that I make are well thought-out as I consider many possibilities and outcomes, I am almost never quick about making a choice. The more time I take doing something, the more importance I place on what I must decide. I am careful with all decisions I make as it may affect me and my future, as well as others around me, which characterizes who I am. The same goes for my art since I think about each element that goes into my work carefully and their significance to understand me as a person.

What is your relationship with your art?
My relationship with my art means an opportunity to discover new things and abilities to create a form of representing myself.

How does this relationship compare to the one with yourself?
The relationship with myself is one that is self-aware. I am always careful and conscious of things that I do because I am scared of looking like a fool in society. However, art allows me to lose my self-consciousness and fully interact with anything that enables me to create. Art accepts me and it’s a place that makes feel like I don’t have to be afraid of anything.

What is the most challenging part about creating for you?
When people don’t understand my intentions and overlook my work is when it feels most challenging. I don’t create for the aesthetic of beauty or for the outcome that something to turn out “beautiful”. I have realized that beauty is an illusion and obsession that is often defined by silly things. Art, for me, is something that will always express something about myself or society that can be “ugly” or ambiguous. I dislike being misunderstood.

What is the hardest emotion for you? Why?
Anger is the hardest emotion. I have been raised to believe that it’s wrong to lose my temper and that I should suppress anger. Happiness and sadness are easy for me to express and experience. However, anger is something that is somewhat more difficult to grasp and deal with.

What is the significance of creating for you?
Creating is expressing. Emotion is a small component to expressing myself and creating art gives me a chance to say something more.

What words of wisdom do you live by? Why?
Never give up. I live by these words because I think putting in effort and trying hard for something that seems unattainable is worth every bit to get further. If I set a goal for myself, I won’t stop until I complete it, no matter what is in my way or how I achieve it. If I give up, I won’t go anywhere.

What advice would you give to your future self? Past self? Present self?
Past self: Don’t give into anyone’s pressures. Keep believing and listening to yourself and what you want. You know yourself best, and don’t be anything you’re not. Don’t worry about fitting in or not having what others have because you don’t fit in anywhere. Accept your differences and be happy with what you have and who you are.

Present self: You have made it this far after making big decisions. Don’t lose track of what you want. Have confidence and keep moving forward. You’ll never get anywhere staying where you are when there are opportunities waiting.

Future self: I hope you are somewhere that you want to be. At this point, don’t take anything for granted. Be thankful for what you have and those who are still around you. Always stay kind.

What are some “taboos” you face in the art community?
I haven’t faced taboos in art since I am not aware of many. However, based on my previous studies, photography was not always considered a form of art, which is the perspective I will take in answering this question. To be honest, in my experience of taking photos from when I was a child, I didn’t think about photography as an art until high school. I then thought about the difference between taking photos with my phone and shooting with a camera. Even now, I still question what distinguishes a snapshot from a photograph. Although I think I am a photographer, I never often thought about the photos I take on my phone as art. Since everyone now owns a phone with a camera, it seems anyone can be a “photographer”.

How has your art brought about an understand of yourself/your world?
Art has bridged connections between it, me, and the world. By allowing me to discover my abilities, I can understand that there are things that I may or may not be skilled at and that it’s okay. I have understood that the art world and the whole world are vast things, where competition and things that will attempt to define me and my abilities exist. But by engaging in the mediums of art, through creating and watching, I understand that some things in the world are silly and unnecessary to define me. I know that maybe I will never be a winner and that there are more chances where I will lose, but I simply refuse to let anything else but myself to define who I am.

How would you like to be seen?
I want to be seen as a person who can be accepted and acknowledged. I don’t want to be looked down upon or excluded because I am different from others in society, or because I don’t conform to their standards and expectations, or because I am female, or because I am a minority. I want people to see my efforts in doing what I like and trying to find my happiness, being purely myself.

How do you, in contrast, think you are seen?
I think I am seen as a demure, scatter-brained, powerless, useless, and inferior little girl, who can’t seem to live up to others’ expectations and follow rules and directions. I am not understood by everyone. Nor have I accomplished anything yet. I think I am underestimated for my abilities, which I am not often able to show or express. I wish to be able to change that.

Find more of Kim Ly’s work here

Instagram: @kimmerswee, @dailykimkim

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