As a first-generation South Asian woman, discovering Ayqa Khan’s work was at once monumental and heartbreaking. Her images evoked, at least for me, the painful isolation of growing up in two different cultures, but belonging to neither.
But I also found beauty and style inspiration in the colorful photographs of girls wearing traditional clothing and jewelry with baseball caps and sneakers, taking selfies in front of printed backdrops. Or the illustrations of women with hair on their arms, legs, and chins adorned in ornate jewelry, maybe floating in the water with paisley-printed palm trees in the horizon.
Even her images that are free of any cultural ties, haunting portraits of pretty girls sitting on trains or chilling on rooftops, are extraordinary. Her work reminds me of a Gregg Araki movie or Jhumpa Lahiri story, in that it perfectly conveys the complications, alienation, loneliness, and beauty of being young, different, and unattached.
I spoke to Khan about her beauty routine, art as a career, and being a brown girl.