The recent shooting at Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California, which left 11 people dead and nine others injured has sent shockwaves through the Asian American community.
The perpetrator, identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, allegedly opened fire on elderly attendees of a Lunar New Year celebration on Jan. 21, 2023.
In a bid to commemorate the victims’ lives and bring attention to their stories, Los Angeles-based designer and illustrator Jonathan D. Chang decided to create portraits of each victim.
All of the images are uploaded on the artist’s Instagram account, including the stories of each person to highlight their humanity. The posts also include links to GoFundMe campaigns launched by surviving family members.
Chang used a Wacom drawing tablet to digitally depict in vibrant colors the images of slain victims Ming Wei Ma, 72; Mymy Nhan, 65; Diana Tom, 70; Xiujuan Yu, 57; Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68; Yu-Lun Kao, 72; Hongying Jian, 62; Wen-Tau Yu, 64; Chia Ling Yau, 76; Muoi Dai Ung, 67; and LiLan Li, 63.
Yu-Lun Kao, 72
Xiujuan Yu, 57
Wen-Tau Yu, 64
Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68
Mymy Nhan, 65
Muoi Dai Ung, 67
Ming Wei Ma, 72
LiLan Li, 63
Hongying Jian, 62
Diana Tom, 70
Chia Ling Yau, 76
Chang, who was born in Taiwan and moved to the Los Angeles area with his mother when he was 3 years old, tells NextShark that he believes in using art in activism to spread awareness on issues that are important to him.
“Since 2021, I have done over 40 portraits of Asian victims of violence to share their stories within our small and sometimes divided diaspora,” he shares. “Until this year, I would have never thought that I’d be illustrating people from my hometown. It hurts even more knowing that one of our own was responsible for shattering so many lives.”
Among the first such portraits that Chang created was the colorful depiction of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, a Thai immigrant who was killed after being pushed onto the ground in San Francisco on Jan. 28, 2021.
“When I was drawing him, I thought about how this man was someone’s husband, father, grandparent, and how unfair it was for him to be taken from them in such a heinous way,” Chang shared with NextShark in a 2022 interview. “I thought about how this could have been my grandfather and how infuriated I would have been if someone had done this to him.”
He also drew a portrait of victim Michelle Go, who was killed after being shoved into the path of an oncoming subway on Jan. 18, 2022. The image was displayed on billboards in Times Square during a vigil for the 40-year-old.
“As I look through these images I’m reminded that these attacks could have happened to any of us and how interconnected we all are,” he wrote about the event last year. “My hope is that events like this bring us together as a community to support each other during these times.”
According to Chan, completing an image is never easy as the process affects him personally.
“Most of the time I debate not finishing those portraits because of how it personally makes me feel,” he shared in a separate interview. “I get through this by reminding myself that raising awareness is more important for our community than how it personally affects me.”
In addition to portraits of victims, he has also drawn Asian American heroes such as flight attendant Betty Ong from the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 in 9/11 and Filipino nurses fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic.