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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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ESSENCE: What we can’t talk about

Arts+criticism+writer+Sameeksha+Sharma+explores+finding+the+right+artform+to+express+yourself+with+recent+alumni+Dana+Dang.
Graphic courtesy of Dana Dang

Arts criticism writer Sameeksha Sharma explores finding the right artform to express yourself with recent alumni Dana Dang.

Writing, singing, painting and playing an instrument are all worthy artistic outlets. Each individual has to find out for themselves which artform helps them best express what they wish to narrate. Wouldn’t it be convenient if there was a perfect online quiz that pinpoints your artistic strengths? The ultimate metric of knowing you’re producing the right form of art is observing whether it helps you express ideas you can’t readily talk about and makes you lose track of time. We all have to try different avenues until it simply happens.

Dana Dang, Class of 2023, began her foray into art with video editing for the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M. This led to her teaching herself poetry and graphic design during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the time I was making a lot of educational content, which pulled me further into exploring other forms of art,” Dang said. “I found poetry during COVID[-19] when I could only be online with my friends for a couple of hours and needed a way to express myself beyond just smiling at a screen.”

Dang began reading poetry by chance. She stumbled on a copy of “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur, which had become a literary phenomenon for its raw poetry. Each short poem was matched by a simple monoline illustration — something Dang said was unlike anything she had ever read before.

“I think Rupi’s poetry caught my attention because it talked about subjects that are bigger than you and [I],” Dang said. “It unpacked things we don’t casually mention to our acquaintances and colleagues. Poetry is unique because you get to read how people make connections in their lives and how they use words to incorporate these connections into their style.”

Dang said poetry captivated her more than video editing, media creation and illustration.

“A big part of getting into poetry is finding the right inspiration,” Dang said. “Poetry can be simple, deep or mysterious. Engaging with the right people, verbally or visually, can change your perspective.”

Dang said her growing understanding of psychology through her undergraduate studies also played a role in making poetry blended with graphic design her preferred artistic outlet.

“Psychology gave me the tools for understanding people and their behavior,” Dang said. “I think poetry and marketing, which is what I would like to do in my career, are great ways to apply that information productively.”

In her poetry portfolio, Dang touches on relatable subjects like feminine beauty, growth from past relationships and fast friendships. Her writing puts large topics into perspective, and one of her personal favorites is “Feminine Beauty.”

“I like to make statements in my work about the people and experiences that have shaped me,” Dang said. “In this poem, I tackle aging and the beauty of it. The world thinks that women look their best in their twenties and beauty declines from there. So we, as women, spend so much energy trying to look like we don’t age. Personally, I think it’s really beautiful to wear your laugh lines and wrinkles as a testament of a fulfilling life.”

“Feminine Beauty” is a relevant poem to read in an era when there is no shortage of embellished social media content out there.

“This is why it sometimes sucks to work in the world of social media where you can change your body to look however you want and stop aging at 22,” Dang said. “What is funny about these posts is that they don’t only feel unfair to yourself, but also to the hundreds of women who will see it.”

Dang has worked in the division of Marketing and Communication at Texas A&M for two years managing the highly followed A&M social media account that thousands of students and faculty members interact with everyday.

“Working with social media has taught me a lot,” Dang said. “I’ve found a passion for strategic branding and marketing, which are interests that I will take into my career. I will be moving to New York to pursue a Masters of Professional Studies in Branding and Integrated Communications at The City College of New York.”

Dang’s journey of finding her preferred artistic outlet didn’t just give her a new hobby, but also carved out a path for her career.

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