Who catches your eye first – the boy or the man?
Brian Liu put himself in this design twice, though his adult outline is almost eclipsed by his serious six-year-old face. That photo was used on his passport when he immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1993. Adult Brian, partially obscured by the collage and looking off camera, “is still the boy that was bullied and misunderstood,” he says. That led to anxiety, depression and shame, until he met Jesus and felt a connection: both of them were discriminated against. Now, through his art, Liu wants to help people do a better job trying to understand each other.
In mid-April, CC’s Editor chatted with the Vancouver artist about “The Man I’ve Become,” commissioned for a new exhibition at Regent College called Healing in Colour: Stories of Race, Faith and Mental Health.
CC: Why did you choose a collage?
Liu: Instead of a general response to race, faith and mental health, I took a personal approach. That’s why I chose a photo of myself. It was important to portray myself in both time periods – today and when I first came to Canada.
I remember having a lot of trouble taking that [passport] photo – I kept blinking. It was me transitioning from one culture to another, entering into the unknown.
What do you hope viewers see?
When we talk about racism and the tension around it, and how do we fix it – that’s quite a high order. It always seems safer to be divided, to draw boundaries. Our comfort is tied up in the survival instinct. Racism is born out of fear. [But] the conversation of racism is personal.
The first thing I want viewers to see is me as a person, as opposed to taking a stand on one side or another.
How does it feel to have this exhibit happening now, after a year of COVID and during #StopAsianHate?
I feel vulnerable, and that’s a good place to be – as the oppressed or the oppressor. Vulnerability is where we can find a safe place to meet, without aggression. This piece does come at a very important time, not just with Anti-Asian hate but also the injustices that have come out of Black Lives Matter and overseas. My story is only a small piece of the pie in terms of what injustice looks like, but maybe other Asian Canadians might relate and start sharing their stories. That’s the only way to have the world understand what it feels like to be discriminated against.
The fallout from [the past year] is brokenness. We need love, forgiveness, healing – all those things are in the Gospel and I believe we can find those things in God.