Women Working in the Arts: Alexis Yuen
Create! Magazine is pleased to introduce you to Alexis Yuen of The Art Diplomat for the next installment of our ‘Women Working in the Arts’ series! Our Director, Alicia, was excited to connect with Alexis to learn more about her newly launched art advisory as well as which woman artist has had a major impact on her career.
She describes her business, The Art Diplomat, as follows:
“I connect brands and individuals with artists who do socially-engaged artworks. Because of my previous work at Christie's and Art Basel, I often get approached by corporations, hotels, properties, and individuals to buy or commission artists. However, instead of looking for big artists represented by galleries, I would direct them to emerging artists who are doing socially-engaged works. I speak with my clients about what values matter to them (e.g. climate change, migrant crisis, gender inequality) and I look for artists and walk them through the buying and commissioning process, sort of like a curator or project manager depending on the client. On the artist side, I travel extensively to meet with women artists and often coach them through their careers. So far, all the artists I've worked with are women of color like myself. Having worked in the commercial art world and been an activist artist, I see there's a huge gap between the two worlds. I hope to empower activist artists by bringing more capital, organization, and attention to the art x activism field.”
Choose one woman artist from history or who is working today and tell us about why she inspires you.
This is easy. Dorathea Lange’s Migrant Mother changed my career as an artist and now an art advisor working with socially-engaged artists. When I first started in art school, my focus was initially in fashion photography but I ended up switching to documentary photography. One of the reasons for my decision was seeing Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother (1936), which humanized the cost of the Great Depression and gave a face to a suffering nation, in my photography history class in freshman year. I remember thinking how the photo was so beautiful, yet so incredibly sad. The photographed 32-year-old mother, Frances Owens Thompson, had wrinkles beyond her age, most probably from the sun she endured in the pea-pickers camp; her worried look and crouching body make the viewers feel the kind of stress and burden she must be experiencing raising three hungry children. And despite the sad subject, Lange managed to capture Thompson in a strikingly beautiful and respectful composition that draws you in and begs you to find out the story behind this woman. When I discovered how Lange’s report and photos from the encampment incentivized authorities to send 20,000 pounds of food, I was overwhelmed by the power of art in calling for actions in social change. I followed Lange’s footsteps and used my photography to capture migrants’ stories in Boston Chinatown and facilitated community conversations on the topic of belonging and identity in a gentrifying part of the city. Granted, with the proliferation of photography, the effects images have on us may not be as significant as in 1936, but I will always be inspired by how one powerful image got people to notice, talk about suffering, and take action.