What’s your name / pronouns?
Hi, I’m Sashiko Yuen (aka Wishcandy). They/ them pronouns.
Where did you grow up/where do you live?
That feels like a complicated question. Grew up in a military family, moving around New Jersey and Maryland. Lived in Southern California for a few years on my own, and now I’m in Portland, Oregon. All pretty essential to who I am today.
How did you think of the name “Wishcandy”?
Was obsessed with trying to come up with a name anyone could remember. Nobody remembers how to spell Sashiko, primarily white folks. At the time I was reading a lot of manga, specifically Sugar Sugar Rune. Which is a manga meant for like people 6-12 years old, I’m pretty sure. But the two young witches in that start eating something called Bone Candy. The wheels in my brain started turning. I also used to have a huuuge sweet tooth!
Who tends to buy your art? Actually, I know several queer people in Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish territories, who have and know your artwork; there’s even some of your pieces in my house belonging to a roommate of mine! Maybe a better question is: who is your art for?
I don’t think just one type of person buys my art. I’m surprised over and over again. Young people with little money, record executives, shop owners, and other artists. People all over the gender binary, people of different ethnicities, people all over the world. (It always touches my heart when someone tells me they’ve visited a friend’s place for the first time and coincidentally that friend has my art on their wall!)
My art is for those with imagination, a thirst for adventure, who love color. Those who are a tad morbid and/or have a sense of humor. Those craving a dynamic representation of marginalized communities, some overlapping. People who can be serious as well as goofy. They are my people.
How would you describe your experience of being an artist in the place you live now / on the Internet?
Being a QPOC artist in Portland, Oregon is rough! Art spaces are typically white spaces, but especially in Oregon. It isn’t an inviting space to begin with, but I notice people struggle to find ways to relate to me when looking at me for visual cues. So they just don’t talk to me. Which means if people don’t talk to you or don’t like you, you’re not getting an invite. Also, if you don’t make paintings with animals and floral, there’s not much space to succeed showing here. I tend to float around the comics scene here, where people are welcoming and open. People are enthusiastic. But I don’t work in comics.
Being online really helps me spread ideas and images quicker. It’s much more accessible and easier to reach my people. Can talk to people and make friends with people all over the world. Which amplifies connection and opportunity. I’m also in a lot more control over how my work is being seen, when curating my web presence.
Growing up, who were the artists that most inspired you? What inspires your work?
I grew up pretty art obsessed, thanks to a mother who was also art obsessed. She painted while I was growing up and would take me to libraries, museums, and her art courses when she didn’t have anyone to watch me. I’ve loved Lisa Frank, Gustav Klimt, Frida Kahlo, Fragonard, Basquiat, Yoshitomo Nara, Ai Yazawa, Junji Ito, Audrey Kawasaki. I can go on and on about different phases of influences.
Content-wise I’m really inspired by the people around me and what’s going on in the world. My personal life definitely gets thrown in there. “Blow me” has a double meaning, and was inspired by someone I was angry at. Visually, I think about my childhood, horror films, food, fashion, and the universe.
What are some ideas that you haven’t yet set to paper (that are just bursting to come out)? What would be a dream come true for you as an artist?
Hahaha, I learned my lesson on excitedly telling people about my future plans. Even people you think you can trust ultimately wind up stealing your ideas. And because I’m frequently ill, other people get to them first.
Ultimately, I’d love to think bigger. Work in different mediums and do some collaborations.
In an interview at Society 6 (“Feelings Are Punk: How Wishcandy Redefines the Feminine” by Leanna Robinson) you talk about how your characters redefine strength and embrace femme-ness. I see that in your piece “Snatched,” in which a Black red-headed femme has clearly snatched up a bunch of blonde hair in one hand. There’s a bald pale-skinned person reflected in their glasses, looking a lot like the figure in Edvard Munch’s The Scream. I love the green smile on this hair-snatcher’s face, both satisfied and gentle. I also love how European art everyone knows is used here! How does femme strength and vulnerability intersect with race, with Blackness, in your art?
Femme strength is depicted in a very shallow flat way in the media. Particularly in blackness. The angry independent woman. I’m showing there are other types of strength. Just because you cry doesn’t mean you’re not strong. Just because you like pastels and flowers doesn’t mean you’re not strong. You can need help and asking/ allowing yourself to take it takes strength. Vulnerability. Everything feminine isn’t considered strong, and usually not associated with Blackness.
Much of the art I’ve seen on mixed race Asian experiences don’t speak to experiences of being both Asian and Black. What does Asian-Black intimacy mean to you as a Black and Chinese person/artist?
My identities as someone who is both Black and Asian are often competing. I had a lot of internalized racism from the way I was raised. By two mixed parents in the suburbs who also have internalized racism. I didn’t grow up close to my extended family. There’s a lot to unpack there, and I’ll never be done. Even though i’ve come far, actively working on my mind, and slowly reflecting that in what I create.
I lean more into being Black these days, as I can’t unsee all the anti-blackness in Asian communities. It makes my stomach churn. I’m not sure what it means to be Chinese (and Latinx as well). I’m digesting what it means to be all of these things, as well as Mixed as its own identity. How can I put these intersections in my work? What does it all mean? At times having multiple identities means not being accepted in any of them, because people perceive you only being a certain percentage of something. So your identity isn’t real. You don’t exist, you’re invisible, yet you can’t stop sticking out. You can be several identities at once, catch up people.
Slowly being more vocal and more visible means I’m meeting more Afro-Asians. Which makes me feel more at home. It is important for me to create based on these ideas, as there isn’t that representation in the arts. Hopefully I’ll have more to say about that in the future. Keep watching.
I only casually paint and draw but a lot of my poems are about food. I’m completely blown away by food erotica, your first series I think and it makes me want to try to write a food erotica poem! But some of your other pieces immerse food with your characters, too. What’s your favourite food? Is there any food you would not put in a potential “food erotica” piece? C-c-can I commission you to do a dumpling piece?!
Thank you! Yeah, it was the first series I’ve publicly shown as Wishcandy. Planning on adding to it. More ideas brewing in my sketchbook. I actually did a dumpling doodle! But not a fully thought out piece, yet. Hit me up and we’ll chat haha.
Hmm, I can’t pick one! I love lasagna, all dumplings, and I miss mochi ice cream! Had to give up dairy and haven’t found a vegan one locally yet. I don’t think any food is off limits for food erotica. I could make any food sensual haha.
What are your hopes for the illustration/art community on this continent?
To be more inclusive, rather than just catering to a cis-white hetero gaze. Invite us to events and shows. To let marginalized people create work based on their own cultures, and be paid for it. Paid equally. Especially in regard to Black folks. If there should be art about Black existence, Black struggle, and Black homicide, leave it to Black people. For our colonizers to profit off our pain is utterly disgusting. Even for white people to be paid for representing our culture, when we aren’t, is gross.
To white folks out there, you can (and should) step aside, pass on jobs to PoC when you’re asked to portray PoC. Their own cultures (PoC and Black folks). How many times can I say Black? In the off chance, you’re not gonna do that, and you ask PoC/ Black people for advice. PAY THEM. That’s consulting, we deserve to be paid for our labor and knowledge.
Not saying that marginalized people should only make work about the way they are othered. We should all be free to make more general or universal themed work too. Be paid like anyone else would be paid. Don't limit our creativity. Don't just hire us for diversity points. We're just as talented as anyone else. We are not your token. Our worldview would make a richer world and influence any universal work we create. Basically don’t be afraid to pay or hire someone out of your social circle. Your comfort zone.
How can people support your work/buy your art?
My work is up at wishcandy.net, if you’re on Instagram i’m @wishcandy. My shop is temporarily closed. But you can DM me if you see something that catches your eye, and you must have it. Or email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for this interview, and the very thoughtful questions. It was a pleasure to read and consider my answers thoroughly.