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Artist draws surreal portraits to break race and gender stereotypes: 'Hate is the real virus'

Dena Nguyen is a graphic designer based in Texas and she wanted to push back against stereotyping of cultures.

Artist draws surreal portraits to break race and gender stereotypes: 'Hate is the real virus'
Image source: Dena Nguyen/Instagram

Art has always served as a strong voice for the oppressed, ostracized, and persecuted. Dena Nguyen, a graphic designer based in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, expressed her idea of what made America the country it is. The digital art series, This Is America, pays homage to people of all cultures and pushes back against stereotyping of such cultures. While the series was done more than a year ago, it's now more relevant than ever, in the wake of the attacks against the Asian American community recently. There has been a sharp rise in attacks against the community since the pandemic started, especially over the last month. A gunman opened fire at three massage parlors in Atlanta, killing eight people, of which six were women of Asian descent in an alleged hate crime. There have also been incidents where people of the community have been attacked in public spaces.



"Why are hate crimes continuing to spike? Nothing changes unless people do. It’s upsetting to see some people so full of hatred. Asians are not a virus. Black people are not a threat. Muslims are not terrorists. Hispanics and Latinos are not illegal. Native Americans are not savages. We can do better, America. #ThisIsAmerica," she wrote in a post. The surrealist series from Nguyen is centered around issues of race, ethnicity, and gender. Her first work in the series was in response to the many people blaming the Asian community for spreading the virus. Nguyen took a photo of an Asian woman, adorned her head with Sakura tree blossoms, and wrote "My race is not a virus." Donald Trump himself repeatedly referred to Coronavirus as the China virus of the China flu, which led to xenophobia and attacks on the Asian community, according to ABC News. After Nguyen posted the image of the Asian woman, she started getting requests from her followers requesting similar for their respective communities.




She created an image of a Black woman with the caption, "My race is not a threat," referring to systemic racism and police brutality against African Americans in the US. As she got more requests, the single piece of art emerged into a series. One showed a Latino woman with the caption, "My race is not illegal." The series aimed to break the stereotypes associated with these communities. One involved a Native American image with the caption, "we are not savages," as they were referred to by European settlers. Here are some of the powerful images from her series.




Along with the artwork, she also posted messages requesting the same. Nguyen also includes a tutorial on the artwork for those interested.






















Nguyen also spoke out against rising hate crimes in the last few weeks. "As an Asian American woman, this really hits home for me. The fact that a gunman targeted 3 spas in Atlanta and killed 8 people with 6 being Asian women really hurts to hear. Xenophobia towards the Asian community is still very apparent in America, especially during the pandemic. In Asian households, we're often told to not voice our opinions or do anything because it would be safer that way, but I can't keep quiet about the increased racial and hate crimes towards the Asian community. Hate is the real virus here... #StopAsianHate," she penned in an Instagram post.

You can follow Nguyen's work on Instagram or on their website.

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