What we are as kids and what adults want for kids can be very different things. As adults, we try to protect and guide children, but despite best efforts, they can be mischievous little monsters. But it’s understandable—we were all kids once and know that the most fun is had around the corner from the adults’ view. It’s something that Vivian Le knows all too well, and in her illustrations, she captures the innocence of childhood with pastel colors and a grisly slant. Resembling dolls or laboratory clones, the children who populate her art rebel against what’s expected of them with violence, profanity, and sex.
小孩的真实面目，可能与成人所期待的那样非常不同。大人不惜一切要保护和教导孩子，但是无论多努力，有些小孩依然是调皮的捣蛋鬼。但这其实不难理解，我们都曾经是小孩，所以我们都知道，最有趣的事情往往发生在大人的视线之外。在 Vivian Le 的插图作品中，她用温暖的色调陈述了阴翳的故事，呈现了自己眼中的纯真童年。在她的作品中，那些外形酷似洋娃娃或实验室克隆出来的孩子，颠覆了人们对小孩的期望，充斥着各种暴力、猥亵和性爱元素。
“I want to challenge the idea of what innocence means by portraying these adolescent figures committing comical acts of debauchery,” Le says. “It’s a macabre cuteness.” Across her works, cherubic figures with plastic limbs swarm among pink backdrops, throwing up the middle finger, and occasionally strangling or eating one another (or worse).
Her choice of colors are also meant to conjure a different perspective of femininity. “People either love or hate pink, because it’s seen as ‘girly’ which can be misconstrued as ‘lesser,’” she says. “Growing up as a girl, pink was everywhere and it became a journey of whether or not it was appropriate to like pink at all. It was so feminine and I didn’t want to be seen as weak.” But by pairing red with pink, she hopes to subvert these notions. “Together they instill specific feelings of love and sensuality, conflicting with my subject matter.”
The red also appeals to her as a first-generation Vietnamese-Chinese immigrant in America; in Asian culture, the color is associated with luck, vitality, and celebration. “I like to include details like these,” she says. “I occasionally title work in Chinese, and generally give my characters Asian features. But I don’t believe my heritage should ever be reduced to aesthetics.”
The world Le has created is many things: for one, it’s designed to evoke fond childhood memories, allowing the viewer and artist to relive their youth. But it also challenges the notion that they were truly days of innocence and provides an outlet to escape the pressures of adulthood.
“The viewer is looking at my subjects through a filter,” Le says. “They are being looked at, therefore objectified. Being projected onto.” Although her work is about children, it’s also about the viewer, and ultimately, herself. “Often, when you see them eating each other’s entrails or eyeballs, that’s me venting my emotions.”