stories told to me

by Nancy Yang

featured artist // artist statement


When my waigong (mother's father) passed away unexpected last summer, in the midst of my mother's bout of breast cancer, it sparked in me a large and surprising fervor to make art.

My mother's side of the family has always been the creative force in my life, inspiring me to explore music, writing, and visual art. I have vivid memories of waigong playing his wide array of instruments to entertain me as a little girl, his carefree spirit forever reminding me to go outside the bounds of social expectations and restraints. And yet, because of my academic schedule and financial constraints, I have yet to visit my grandfather's grave. Making art has been my way of wanting to grieve and processing the inability to do so properly.

I believe my art is a great fit for TAYO's mission to explore diaspora. Loss, memory, and familial lineage are central pillars to understanding where oneself comes from and how one has arrived, where one might go. 

I grew up in various places, and am currently a medical student and aspiring writer/artist based in Minnesota. I'm a first-generation Chinese immigrant and social activist, and am interested in how architecture reiterates structures of the human body. 

Thank you for taking the time to view my artwork. I hope you enjoy it.


Flags (watercolor on cold press paper)

The first painting was inspired by a story my parents told me of their growing up in rural China as the children of many generations of farmers. After a day of swimming, they would try to dry their clothes so their parents wouldn't know. 


What We Inherit In Our Bones (Watercolor on art board)

The second painting depicts my grandfather, my mother, and me, with patterns and structures inspired by traditional Chinese watercolor. It's my expression of acknowledging that I carry deep within me what waigong and my mother, and the country I come from, have passed to me, for me to carry forward in my life. 

Visual Artist's Bio:

Nancy Siyang Yang is a third-year medical student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She has been drawing, painting, and making other forms of art since she could remember. She was born in China and immigrated to the U.S. when she was eight years old. Her artwork has appeared in The Intima: a journal of narrative medicine, and spires: Intercollegiate Arts and Literary Magazine.