Art with a mission

Profile of fine art student Cindy Kwong

Cindy Kwong pictured above with her artwork.
Cindy Kwong pictured above with her artwork.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series featuring fine art students at Queen’s.

Combining a passion for fine art, psychology and mental health awareness, Queen’s fine art student Cindy Kwong knows exactly what she wants to do with her degree.

As a fifth-year student, Kwong discovered early in first-year that the fine arts program was the best fit for her.

“I went to an arts high school, and I actually came in to Queen’s last minute for politics and economics,” Kwong, ArtSci ’15, said regarding her decision to switch programs. “So I did my first year and I liked the papers and I liked learning but I was like, ‘I just want to go into art.’”

This year Kwong is working on a project that highlights her own personal artistic aesthetic, as well as focuses on raising awareness about mental illness.

Hanging in her Ontario Hall studio are several study paintings that she’s working on in preparation to complete her final project that will be both graded and put on display in the winter term.

“The size is going to be two eight-by-four planks of wood that I’m going to paint on — because I really like painting on wood — so what I’m doing is what’s going to be an eight-layer painting. I’m going to be cutting canvas with mylar and spacing it with velcro,” she said, referring to the structural plans for her project.

There’s no second-guessing what the inspiration and meaning behind her works of art are. Kwong has a clear vision in her mind of what she wants to create.

In her prints and paintings, Kwong said she attributes much of her work to mental health issues and mental awareness.

“What I’m planning to do for this project is a scene painting of separate images which when you put it together is meant to have a disconnected feeling but all together it’s going to form a scene,” she said.

“It’s basically going to be like a snapshot of a person living with depression. A lot of people ask ‘How do you stay in your room for two weeks at a time and not leave?’ So with that idea in mind it’s going to be a three-figured painting where there’s a living room and bedroom setting.”

Beyond mental illness awareness, Kwong also uses her own personal identity as an important symbolic element in her work.

Pointing to a large figure painting she has hung up on her studio wall of a woman donning a silky salmon-pink traditional garment, she explains its meaning.

“I’m part Korean, and I grew up in a Korean household, so that dress represents how back in the day that’s what they wore, and it represents femininity and royalty. It’s the pinnacle of what a woman should be,” she said.

“A lot of what I want to include in this assignment is also how as a second-generation immigrant, my parents tried to really instill these ideas of femininity and Korean values, while we’re in Canada.”

Believing art is more than just a vessel for expression, Kwong also sees it as a tool that can be used therapeutically to help both herself and others.

Bringing together both her fine arts and psychology education, she plans to use her talents to help teach and heal others.

After completing her minor in psychology, she plans to apply for her Master’s to do art therapy for children. She expressed that she wants to work with kids with mental and learning disabilities and kids involved in trauma.

“I feel like — it’s so cheesy — but art has a really helped me a lot through things as a person mentally,” she said.

Kwong said she wants to do her doctorate and hopefully open up her own clinical practice one day.

“I have this obsession with paintbrushes and paint,” she said, with a huge grin. “I’d be okay with flowers, but if a guy brought me a bouquet of paint brushes that would be 10 times better.”

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