When I was first given the opportunity to review Michiko Wild’s art show, I had absolutely no idea who they were. All I knew was a name and a brief description, and I immediately sent an emailed response agreeing to the review. Less than a week later, I found myself driving twenty minutes northwest from my West Campus dorm at the University of Washington to an art store I had never been to before, in a part of town I had yet to visit – but I still felt compelled to attend.
I didn’t know what I was expecting. I was nervous about potentially meeting the artist of this forthcoming novel because even the thought of this possibility triggered the social anxiety I so desperately tried to gulp and hide down my throat.
I remember first seeing the cover of “To Whoever Even Listen,” – a piece I would later learn is titled I Still Remember. When I looked through the art store, I searched for this cover, but most of all, searched for a familiar face I could cling to, any at all, but it was at this moment I realized the cover of this novel was a self-portrait of the author. Bright lights above reflected from Michiko’s bridge piercing that lay perfectly parallel to the black mask they wore; the same bridge piercing I saw on the cover of the stacks of books lying on the table beside me.
It had been ten minutes since I arrived when groups of folxs started trickling in. From what seemed like family, then peers, and then advisors and professors, there was no denying the support that Michiko had in the makings and ultimate publication of this comic. Alongside the table topped with a stack of Michiko Wild’s newest publication, framed pieces of their art adorned the wall. From various works such as Not Dead as well as The Burning House, Wild’s utilization of Gansai – Japanese watercolor – beautifully depicted the pain and resilience in which they persevered. It was such a lively and warm sight to see and as time progressed, a line formed in front of Michiko, fans, and family alike, in hopes of getting their book signed by this new and upcoming artist. It was surreal… Until I snapped back into reality and realized I had to somehow surf through this crowd of people so that I could finally introduce myself.
When I first met Michiko, while brief, it was memorable, nonetheless. I let them know I was writing a review on their show as well as their comic and immediately, their eyes lit up. Michiko asked me a question that lingered in my mind for days following our interaction: I’m curious – what made you want to review it?
At the time, all I could manage to communicate was that I had done reviews of works encompassing similar topics, but felt that I couldn’t properly explain my true intentions… Never would I have thought that I would grasp my words only after I had finished reading their book.
In “To Whoever Even Listen,” Michiko Wild explores the harsh realities of our society and exposes its turning of the ignorant, ableist cheek to communities with disabilities as well as mental health inequities. Wild’s explicit telling of their story through the lens of not only themself as a Sansei – third-generation – queertrans, disabled, mixed Japanese artist, but through echoes of hidden truths from their Nisei (second-generation) and Issei (first-generation) forebearers as well. This graphic novel serves as a cry for help of the self, as a microcosm of the collective care that many of us long for. Wild’s work is a step in the right direction as it attempts to shine a long-overdue light on the stigma that attaches itself to intergenerational traumas of various minoritized identities.
Having composed this work throughout the tribulations forcibly imposed by the pandemic, Michiko Wild’s resilience shines through in both the openness of their writing as well as their comic illustrations, radiating sentiments both tragic and hopeful. Wild shares depictions of memories that hold resonance with many who have fallen subject to the pathologization of their very existence. Wild’s use of their platform in order to include the voices of their then-silenced mother and grandmother is supported by a three-generations-long compilation of medical records, letters, and illustrations. This multimedia work, though initiated only a few years ago, has been decades in the making and is undeniably worth the read, let alone the in-person visit for a chance to personally meet the mind behind it all.
To answer Michiko’s initial question, I hadn’t known it then, but I can’t help but give recognition to it now – having lived through what it felt like, holding their hand during a journey they so unapologetically shared; I chose to review this work genuinely because I gravitated towards it. As a queer, disabled, first-generation Southeast Asian immigrant myself, I feel as though this gravitation was far from coincidental. When experiencing “To Whoever Even Listen,” I couldn’t help but feel as though the very articulation of this work had to have provided a sense of comfort through the liberation of expression in a world that tends to suppress. Moreover, I want to share the role it played in validating a lot of the experiences many of us undergo; for many of us have been silenced for years on end that the strength Wild portrays within their newly released novel is but a fraction of the resilience many of us hope to, one day, emulate.
Michiko Wild’s Opening Reception for their release of “To Whoever Even Listen” kickstarted Thursday, February 16, 2023, at the PUSH/PULL art gallery. Both Wild’s graphic novel as well as their artworks will remain on display through March 15th. With only a few copies left from the initial printing, a second printing is soon to come! Again, while a handful of Michiko Wild’s art has already been sold, they will remain at PUSH/PULL free to view for the remainder of its display.
Visit PUSH/PULL at 2000 NW Market St. PUSH/PULL is open Sundays 10a-6p, Mondays-Wednesdays 10a-7p, and Thursdays-Saturdays 10a-9p. You can reach PUSH/PULL at (206) 789-1710 or [email protected]. Don’t forget to follow Michiko Wild on Instagram @wild.michiko and visit their website at https://michiko-wild.square.site for more information!