The Laura We Know: A Conversation with Artist Laura Gao

Laura Gao (she/her) is a writer, artist, and creator of the viral online comic “The Wuhan I Know.”For more information and to check out her work, go to her website.

 

First of all, how are you faring right now during the pandemic? Any tips for being productive or just not losing it?

Honestly, this year started off incredibly rough. I went through a breakup and a death of a friend, all while a global pandemic was happening. Art has been the one constant in my life that stops me from losing it. Whenever I’m drawing, I tune out the world and am in my own “creative high zone.” If I get restless, I enjoy biking through the city and near the beach. 

 

As someone who creates in multiple media, how do you determine what form an idea of yours should take?

The medium I use is often influenced by the kind of story I want to tell. Comics are a great way for me to blend beautiful and colorful landscapes with emotional monologues. Sometimes if I want to focus on clever wordplay, I may use poetry. Other times, I’m inspired by a song and create an animation that overlays the song in the background to set the mood.

The Wuhan I Know Title Page

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Your comic “The Wuhan I Know” went viral on Twitter and was subsequently written up by several news outlets, most notably NPR. Can you walk us through the creation of that comic?

The comic came out of a response to stand up and dispel hateful and misinformed attention my hometown was getting during Covid. Before Covid, I was supposed to visit my family in Wuhan for my grandma’s birthday but our flight was canceled the day before Wuhan shut down. Now on the other side, I felt helpless watching my family quarantined while people in the U.S. had nothing but hurtful things to say. When I started experiencing some of the xenophobia and read about others facing the same, I knew I needed to create something uplifting and empowering. This comic was my way of expressing my reaction to xenophobia and highlighting my favorite parts about my hometown I hoped others would appreciate too.

 

Did you expect the response it got? Can you describe what it was like to see such a large, positive reaction?

I didn’t expect it at all! I had seen so much anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter I was afraid I’d be another target. And I did get some nasty comments. But 99% of it was so positive it warmed my heart! Other Wuhanese and Chinese around the world reached out and resonated with the story emotionally, and others who had never heard of the city commented on how beautiful they thought it was and wanted to visit after this was over! I was overwhelmed and grateful that the world in general wasn’t as ugly as it had felt. I shared the comic with my family in Wuhan too and they were elated to hear about the response.

 

The QTBIPOC is one of the first communities where I felt safe and open to share my deepest stories. Some of my greatest friends and supporters are a part of the community. Growing up, there weren’t many people of color and definitely nobody that was queer. It wasn’t until college to where I found others who were comfortable in their own skin and gave me the courage to come out as queer myself.

At inQluded, we strive to provide a safe creative space for young QTBIPOC, where their intersectional identity is celebrated. How important is community with other QTBIPOC to you?

The QTBIPOC is one of the first communities where I felt safe and open to share my deepest stories. Some of my greatest friends and supporters are a part of the community. Growing up, there weren’t many people of color and definitely nobody that was queer. It wasn’t until college to where I found others who were comfortable in their own skin and gave me the courage to come out as queer myself. Since then, I haven’t held back on telling my queer and immigrant stories through art and writing because I want other young Lauras out there to know they aren’t alone. 

 

 

Interviewed by Aaron H. Aceves

Interview condensed for clarity

Photo credit and art credit owned by Laura Gao

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