First published in the June 3 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The balcony at an opera house is the setting for a piece of art created by Claire Yee, a sophomore at South Pasadena High School. Her artwork recently won first place in the 2022 Congressional Art Exhibition for California’s 27th District, represented by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu.
Yee’s piece, titled “Constraint,” will now be on display for one year at the U.S. Capitol.
Hers is one of seven pieces of art that were recognized at a recent awards ceremony. The others will be on display in Chu’s Pasadena office, according to a representative for Chu.
Yee said 98% of her drawing was created with colored pencils and the rest was drawn with markers.
“I dyed the paper red beforehand,” she said, resulting in an overall red hue to the artwork.
Describing her artwork, Yee said, “This is like the luxurious balcony of an opera house.”
The image is of burly, boisterous older men watching a performance, and they’re all surrounding a young woman, who feels uncomfortable. “I wanted to isolate her,” Yee said, adding that she “wanted the environment to be more aggressive symbolically.”
She said she wanted to capture expectations surrounding certain places.
One might expect to be in a better place because you’re with people who have more money.
“But that’s not the case, because if you have the wrong people surrounding you, regardless of where you are, you can’t enjoy the show properly or enjoy life as much,” she said.
Yee acknowledged it’s a very intense scene. “The men are really crushing down on her, suffocating,” she said.
So, Yee wanted to add some humor to the image. She decided to draw some whimsical animals “because I wanted to represent chaos… I thought, you know what? It would be funny to add some animals that sneak not the opera house,” she said.
The piece’s title means that people are sometimes constrained by their environment.
Yee said she personally has had some constraints tied to her high school years and upcoming choices about college. And a student can end up getting “stressed out” and can’t “immerse yourself” in life properly.
While she is sophomore this year, she is considering pursuing a career in entertainment graphic arts after graduation.
Yee said she plans to attend the ceremony when her artwork is unveiled at the Capitol.
“It’s just so surreal. I can’t believe it’s happening,” she said.