Born in China, raised in Portland, Oregon, and based in New York City, Shawna X—one of seven international artists who re-envisioned Oscar for this year's campaign—has been communicating through art since she was a child.
A platform-agnostic graphic artist, her vibrant, often whimsical designs have appeared on newspaper and magazine covers, as well as cars, surfboards, murals, room-size installations, sculptures and on digital billboards in Times Square.
“I believe my work is visceral, driven by emotional nuance and the intangible,” she says.
Her connection to film runs deep, as both inspiration and escape. “Sometimes I rewatch my favorite movies just to evoke a feeling, as in this fast-paced world of instant gratification, I go numb,” she says. “I am deeply moved by the complexities of the human experience, though often simple on the surface. The dichotomy translates to the approach I often take in my work, from color to composition.”
She anchors the viewer in her interpretation of Oscar, presenting the statuette bathed in color and backed by a wide-open eye.
“This visual is direct and to the point: We watch movies,” she says. “What we absorb has an effect on our dopamine levels, whether pleasure, excitement or inspiration.” The abstract patterns emerging from the eye and the Oscar in her design reflect that energy and delight.
Here are Shawna X's top picks for the movies that most inspired her.
The color, pacing, score, story, cinematography, dialogue, everything—this is a movie that depicts what I want to capture in my work, how every single detail collaborates with one another to create this rich, soothing movie, like a soup.
I’ve read that director Barry Jenkins was inspired by Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, and I can sense that connection so well in this film. The characters are what get me. Within the first five minutes of the movie, I feel for them deeply. My work is inspired by humanity, first and foremost, so naturally I’m enthralled by the connection to characters in a movie. As in real life, these connections are so rare and precious.
I love horror movies, but this tops my favorites since it goes beyond the horror genre and truly surprised me. The ambiance in this movie is perfectly in sync with the desolation, the loneliness, the fear of the female protagonist. I love the female-empowerment element of this film, beneath the layer of the barren and gray scenes and creaky score.
I saw this movie when it first came out and it changed my understanding of movies, showing me that film is more than entertainment. I didn’t understand the topics of love and loss back then, but I fully grasp them today. I’m in awe of how screenwriter Charlie Kaufman was able to capture heartbreak and the complexity of relationships so well. Teenage me will always be thankful for this preview into the life I was so naive about and confused by before I understood myself and my role in this world.
One of my favorites since its debut, and now my 2-year-old daughter’s as well. I’ve seen this movie more than 20 times at this point. Writer-director Hayao Miyazaki is a master at capturing critical reflections of society as fantasy, creating so many layers and such depth to the story and the characters. Joe Hisaishi’s soundtrack is on constant replay in my household.