John Billings

(Portsmouth, Rhode Island)

A figure that consists of strings. Its skin is a warm gray, and its shirt is covered in these stringy lines. It looks up at its lifted right hand and stares at all the strings dangling down.

As an artist, my work includes mostly drawings in both traditional and digital media. I enjoy working two-dimensionally and often choose human figures and landscapes as subject matter, though I prefer to unbind my subjects from reality in some way.

This body of work explores the connection between emotional identity and appearance. Together, both aspects make up who you are as a person – not only in your eyes, but the eyes of others as well. As an Asian-American, I have the appearance of an Asian man, but I have been raised in an American culture. This apparent contradiction has caused me to question my identity, especially in the light of recent times.

The figures in this series are unsure, doubtful, and vulnerable; they all share multiple identities that are seemingly at war with each other. They’re meant to illustrate the emotions and struggles of people who share my situation. The goal of these works is to invite the viewer to understand and reflect upon the emotional impact of xenophobia.

A figure with gray skin holds its hands up to its face, but there is some hesitation to cover its ears. Its torso is cut halfway and replaced with vague lines. The light source is strong, reflecting off the arms, hands, and nose. The figure’s shoulder is being shown.

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