Coloring Outside the Lines: Felicia Khong

Art transcends. It heals. It bends to takes shapes and forms that we didn’t even know it was capable of. It changes our hearts and the way we view the world.  It is ever evolving. And with its growth it has opened the door to dozens of new artists with voices and ideas that are blowing the top off of our bottled up creative intake.   Artists are leaving themselves open to be altered by everything that this world shows itself to be and in their vulnerability they give we, the audience, a chance to alter as well.

But perhaps the most incredible thing about the state of art in the now is the way it’s broadened to include artists from everywhere, every race, every sex; allowing people like pop art artist Felicia Khong to step into the forefront and change the game.

Felicia Khong is personified dope. When you meet her she’ll probably be wearing a pair of bright colored Nikes and sporting her bone straight hair with her 4-finger ring and minimal makeup. She’ll tell you that she’s a drummer, a pianist, ¼ of a girl group called Jazmin (a group that she started with her 3 sisters) and that she’s a painter who channels Van Gogh and Jackson Pollack on the daily. She’s most definitely what happens when jazz meets hip-hop at a streetlight on a perfect day in Los Angeles.

Running relentlessly away from the stereotypes of what a woman, more specifically a woman of Asian decent, can do, has made Felicia, in a way, unstoppable. From her desire to learn to play drums as a young girl to her ever-present confidence as a female artist in a male dominated profession, she raises the bar. With her art becoming increasingly popular around Los Angeles, Khong is having the first glimpse into the world she has penetrated and the reality of an elitist idea that seeks to keep art special to only one group of people. “Being a girl in the game is totally different and it is kinda crazy”, she explains, “people don’t assume that I’m the artist. So I’ll stand there and wait and they’ll come up to me like ‘who painted these?’ and I’ll say ‘I did.’ They don’t believe me, I love that they don’t believe me, it makes me want to do it even more.”

It’s that very tenacity that makes her so completely engaging. Growing up with her four sisters, mother and father in California, Felicia admits she had a bit of a structured experience with hard work and dedication taking precedent over childhood freedom. “We grew up always focusing on music. We never watched TV, we didn’t go out with our friends. We were at home practicing piano, studying or you had to DO something, you weren’t allowed to just sit around. So I started drawing to keep myself occupied, it’s so challenging so I never got bored.” As the daughter of a pianist mother and father whose love for God led him to a life as a pastor, Felicia was gifted with the vision to see that nothing speaks louder than true passion but that art is not a masturbatory experience but instead something that we create for others to give them the courage to live boundlessly. “I like to make people happy and I want them to feel the same passion that I feel. So that’s why I do it. I like the excitement people get when they see something new and feel inspired. Just the fact that they’re opening their minds to something whether they like it or not just the fact that they’re looking at it is already helping them…all of a sudden they’re critically thinking about art”, she explains as a brightness in her eyes changes the atmosphere of our conversation.

With music being her first love, her desire to complete an album with her three sisters for their group, Jazmin led her to use her talents to pay the artists who agreed to help them. “When I first started the paintings were for writers, producers who were part of helping Jazmin. They would do songs for us and I would give them paintings in return…it was kind of a barter thing.” But now Khong has officially cemented herself as an artist on the rise. With her one of a kind style that she says is Van Gogh meets Pollack meets Warhol, Felicia is surpassing the plans that she had for herself and shocking the pants off of her peers.

She’s taken it upon herself to bring art back into the “cool” for our generation. It can no longer be mistaken as an art form made solely for the enjoyment of upper class white America and the hip-hop generation can allow itself to greatly benefit from using its artistic talents to tell a story. “Even for my circle of friends, it’s different for them they’re like “you’re doing what”, we’re not used to it being a common thing. I definitely want to make it something that’s more our generation. A lot of people’s favorite musicians paint like Kanye and Andre 3000, people just don’t know about it because it’s not ‘popular’…that’s why I’m mixing it with our music and our generation, we’re happy, we love fashion, we change things…I want to combine all those feelings into my art.”

But it’s not just her audience who is being changed. Felicia Khongs’ own transformation has come in the balls to the wall fire she infuses into her work. In pushing the envelope for spectators she has found herself breaking out of the shell that was built from her ivory tower upbringing.  “I can be a bit of an introvert. Being a visual artist forces you to open yourself up to other people and I’ve actually learned from other people who have inspired me…so all of those things have helped me. I’m a woman. I’m confident. I’m independent. I’m on my own.” And right now…she’s her only competition.

Written By: Iman Milner

Photography: Ashley B. Nguyen


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