“The Handmaid’s Tale” carries an important message that rang true from when it was first published in 1985 to now in 2018. The fight for women’s reproductive rights is still ongoing. And despite having Planned Parenthood and the birth control pill, many government powers are still trying to suppress women’s ability to control whether they want to have children or not. All of these themes in our society are taken to the extreme in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and this dystopian novel lets us have a peek at a possible future reality that is becoming less and less fictional.
My decision to illustrate this novel initially comes from my attraction to the red dresses that the Handmaids had to wear. Red is a powerful, strong, and fearless color and yet, it was chosen to symbolize a woman without any power or control over her own body. It’s an interesting dynamic that I further explored within the series, such as by using flowers, delicate feet and hands, or decorative jewels surrounding images of violation and assault. I believe that the beauty and charm that exist within these paintings only make the subject matter that much more disturbing and intriguing. And the dynamic between dark and beauty is something I think is representational of the fictional nation of Gilead.
As an artist, I believe that it is important for us to be aware of the power that we hold, the change we can create, and the future we can have. Art is a powerful tool to create change, and by making artworks based on issues that we care about, we are contributing to those causes. Thus, works like “The Handmaid’s Tale” are so necessary because they shed light on matters that demand to be seen. They are calls for action, and even cries for help. Society needs brutal, difficult art to motivate ourselves to try harder. Because a battle might be won today, but there are still many more injustices that are happening in the world.
— Mai Ta