Chico State student uses art to express identity and culture


Elizabeth Lo sits down to continue working on her painting. She knows it’s late, but it’s at this time that she feels like she can really start to be creative. The Wi-Fi is shut off, and her classical music is now playing. Lo is now in the creative mindset she needs to create something not only beautiful, but thought provoking about her own self.

Lo is a sophomore in the art program at Chico State. She has had a passion for art since she was a child and it has since blossomed into a way she can truly express herself and has helped shape her identity as a whole. Lo recalls being a young child and, even then, had a reputation for drawing in elementary school. But it wasn’t until her junior year of high school where she realized her ability for art could be more than a hobby. 

“I was thinking I would go with teaching, because it was the most realistic approach because it gives me time to work on my own pieces and also gives me time to teach students what I have learned through my process as well,” Lo said. 

Although she wants to be a teacher, she isn’t sure at what level she wants to teach. At a university level, she can refine a student’s skills, but in high school she can be someone’s inspiration and ignite their passion to be an artist. It’s a tough decision Lo hasn’t made yet. 

For now, she’s focusing on her own art. While her work does not maintain the same artistic style, there is a theme that surrounds all of her pieces. Lo prefers to have human subjects, so the viewer can connect with her work, and her work always incorporates her own culture. 

“It’s part of who I am and I want to show people,” Lo said. “There’s a lot of things in the Hmong culture that influence a lot of my works.”

Lo hasn’t always had a strong connection with her culture. Being a first-generation American, Lo had to learn what it means to be a Hmong person in America. 

“I was just a kid really understanding what it meant to be Hmong and American at the same time,” Lo said. “I pushed away my identity as a Hmong person because a majority of the kids I went to school with were Caucasian and Hispanic.” 

In her youth, Lo felt like there wasn’t a platform or opportunity to talk to other students about her culture.

Now, Lo uses her art as a way to educate those who don’t know about Hmong people in America. 

“I’m definitely trying to create a voice for the Hmong community,” Lo said. 

One of her  current paintings features landscapes based on Laos and Vietnam. She described how her mom escaped oppression of the communist government during the Vietnam War by crossing the mile-long, freezing-cold Mekong River. It’s this exact history that inspires Lo’s pieces 

When viewing one of Lo’s pieces, nothing strikes you more than the sharp and attracting eyes of her paintings subjects. 

“I want the viewer to feel intimate with the piece, I just want to connect on a level where I don’t have to speak on the painting, but the painting can speak for themselves,” Lo said.

Lo has two more years at Chico State to grow, but as she continues to paint, she will only keep inspiring others. To see some of Lo’s artwork, you can find her art instagram at @elosarts16. Although pictures don’t give her work justice and show how vibrant her paintings are, it provides a glimpse into her culture and who she is.