Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s cover for the forthcoming issue of TIME magazine, dedicated to the rise of anti-Asian violence in the wake of recent horrific hate crimes against the community, is as much an expression of hope as it is an urgent call to action. The kaleidoscopic painting, depicting a woman gazing out boldly amid a festoon of flowers, honors the lives of Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, and three other Asian women brutally murdered by a white gunman in a shooting rampage across Atlanta-area massage parlors this Tuesday.
Titled “With Softness and Power,” Phingbodhipakkiya’s work accompanies the issue’s two cover stories: a personal essay by senior editor Lucy Feldman and a story on the painful legacy of anti-Asian racism in America by staff writer Cady Lang. It was selected by TIME photo editor Sangsuk Sylvia Kang, who had seen Phingbodhipakkiya’s installations denouncing anti-Asian violence across New York City, created in partnership with the NYC Human Rights Commission as part of the Department of Cultural Affair’s Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) program.
“It’s not lost on me how significant this cover is, bringing together the art and collective vision of four AAPI women,” Phingbodhipakkiya tells Hyperallergic. “We are so often invisible, considered docile and passive, no more than mere objects to serve at the pleasure of others. This cover is a show of strength, of defiance, of power.”
Feldman says she was not initially planning on writing for the forthcoming issue, but Phingbodhipakkiya’s piece inspired her and spurred her to share her own experience as an Asian-American.
“I threw together an essay and sent it to my colleagues with a sense of unease, unsure if I wanted to publish something so personal,” Feldman told Hyperallergic. “But then I saw Amanda’s art and it changed everything. I connected with it immediately. Amanda’s work gave me the boost of confidence I needed — that this was the right thing to do.”
In the painting, the central figure is surrounded by chrysanthemums, peonies, and hawthorn berries, flowers representing resilience, community, and staying power, according to the artist.
“When I see Amanda’s art, it’s a beautiful, powerful affront to the ways in which a white supremacist world tries to dehumanize Asian Americans and particularly Asian American women,” Lang told Hyperallergic.
“It is a reclamation of space, a celebration of our beauty and resilience, a promise that we will continue to fight against the racism, xenophobia, misogyny, fetishization and dehumanization that has led to the massacre of our AAPI sisters in Atlanta and the countless attacks on our community,” Phingbodhipakkiya said. “It honors the lives of our sisters who were slain this week. Their lives, their stories, their dreams mattered.”
The hate crime comes after a year of escalating prejudice and violence against people of Asian descent. Between March 19, 2020, and February 28, 2021, the incident reporting database Stop AAPI Hate received 3,795 reports of anti-Asian discrimination, Lang notes in her article — and women reported hate incidents at 2.3 times the rate of men.
“In this heavy time of anguish, heartbreak and anger, I know many of us are so tired. I hope that this cover offers my AAPI brothers and sisters a moment of peace and pride, and I hope that this guardian’s defiant spirit is a rallying cry for systemic change, accountability, and more resources for our community,” Phingbodhipakkiya said.
Artists, she adds, can have an impact by “leading with our creative resilience.”
“I truly believe that art can be as restorative as an IV or a warm meal,” Phingbodhipakkiya said. “So many communities of color are hurting in this time, and as artists, we can hold them all with gentleness and in light with our work.”
“It is powerful to see our faces reclaim space, our voices heard in the news, and our words in print. I intend to continue making visible not just the pain and anguish of our communities of color, but also the fortitude, courage, and hope of our people.”