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Silk screening workshop creates space for women of color through art

A+participant+swipes+red+and+yellow+paint+across+a+screen+onto+a+tote+bag+during+the+Love+Women+of+Color%3A+Celebrating+Empowerment+Through+Art+screen+printing+workshop+April+18.
Collegian | Daryn Whitmoyer
A participant swipes red and yellow paint across a screen on to a tote bag during the Love Women of Color: Centering Empowerment Through Art silk screening workshop April 18. The silk screens and designs were created by Seojung Lee, a graduate student at Colorado State University. The event was hosted by the Survivor Advocacy and Feminist Education Center as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Wet paint marks peppered the table as participants set down paper towels so they could continue their art. Colorado State University students of varying ethnicities, genders and backgrounds came together to participate in the Love Women of Color: Centering Empowerment Through Art silk screening workshop April 18 with artist and CSU graduate student Seojung Lee.

Lee said through her experience as an Asian woman at CSU, she felt empowered to create art that represents the strength of women of color.

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“When I was an undergraduate student at CSU, I got some (micro-aggressions), … and I internalized the stereotypical image of (an) Asian woman: nonvocal, quiet, try to fit in the main host culture,” Lee said. “I didn’t think about it because I thought it’s the best way to adjust myself in United States culture.”

Studying graphic design, Lee’s love for silk screening began when she took a fiber course during her first year as a graduate student.

“Women of color are not just a stereotypical image, and women of color are not just their trauma in the United States history. We are confident, we are vocal and we have our own distinct culture to speak our voice in the United States.” –Seojung Lee, artist and graduate student

“I used to just (do) graphic design with the computer, but I feel like there is (a) lack of some component, which is tactile quality,” Lee said.

Lee said she wanted to create something that represented not just her perspective as an Asian American woman but something that other women of color could identify with as well. Lee emphasized the importance of going outside of one’s personal identity to support people of other identities.

“How can I actually combine (the) woman-of-color experience, not only my Asian American experience, but how about Latinx women, how about Indigenous women, how about Black women — how can I support them as a woman of color?” Lee said.

Lee designed her Love Women of Color work with lots of intention. Specifically, she worked to represent women of color as goddesses. In each of her images, the woman’s eyes are looking up, and there is a halo in each image.

“Women of color are not just a stereotypical image, and women of color are not just their trauma in the United States history,” Lee said. “We are confident, we are vocal and we have our own distinct culture to speak our voice in the United States.”

As the entirety of April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, events at CSU feature different ways for survivors to feel supported in their community. The silk screening at Love Women of Color was a practice for healing.

“We’re trying to balance how to raise awareness while also intentionally creating space for people to find community, be connected with other people who identify as survivors, to know that they’re not alone on campus and then with the overall goal of hoping that folks can find a practice towards healing,” said Erica Ross, assistant director for educational programs at CSU’s Survivor Advocacy and Feminist Education Center.

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Although Lee is graduating this semester, her wish is for this event to continue as an annual celebration in the hands of another artist of color.

“I really hope our department makes some connection with the different communities at CSU and makes some (platforms) for people of color designers or artists to keep continuing this event going on,” Lee said.

Victoria Benjamin, director of the SAFE Center, emphasized that while events like these are important to have, women of color should be recognized every day.

“This event is important because women of color are so much more than their oppression and trauma,” Benjamin said. “They are beautiful, talented, dynamic and complex people who deserve to be centered, loved and celebrated — not just at events like this but all the time.”

Reach McKenna Van Voris at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @mckenna_vv.

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