Charlyne Yi isn’t interested in choosing just one career path and sticking to it. The actor, comedian, artist, musician and writer says she’d prefer to keep growing and changing, and that she envisions multiple chapters to her creative story.
“The end of growing sounds like death,” she wrote in an email this week. “I want to do all the things that challenge my soul, whether it be music, comedy, art, shoe cobbling or carpentry.” Internet bios may define her by the comedic roles she played in Judd Apatow movies in her 20s, but Yi likes to describe herself as “a student of the Earth.”
“I sound like a real hippie,” she says of the description. “I smell like one, too! Speaking of which, I’d like to promote World Peace and clean water. #NoDAPL.”
Much like her career, Yi’s art is an eccentric, eclectic mashup of mediums. At “River of Dust,” her upcoming benefit art show at Scoops Ice Cream Shop in East Hollywood, she is presenting a series of “dreams, drawings, dioramas, scrolls and melodies.” The show also doubles as a cassette tape release party. All proceeds from the sale of the cassettes and artwork will go to Wolf Connection, an organization that serves at-risk youth and wolfdogs, and is close to Yi’s heart.
“I come from a pretty messed-up family,” Yi says, which is why she has always felt an affinity for both lost wolves and lost people who have to create their own wolf packs. “This organization is so wonderful because it's incredibly therapeutic for the at-risk youth and the wolfdogs to connect and work on their relationships.” At Wolf Connection, Yi observed kids and wolfdogs from difficult backgrounds with stand-offish attitudes learn to open up to each other.
When dealing with her own depression, Yi likes to draw and paint. Lately, she’s been using a lot of watercolors and crayons. She likes “the struggle to make something look emotional in crayon.” She says a lot of the pieces in this show are surprisingly light, especially given that they come from what she describes as the pit of her “dark, dark soul.”
For those who appreciate the blacker corners of her soul, Yi has created dioramas depicting scenes from her nightmares in which she and the Devil are engaged in sword combat. Still, she adds, “Some dioramas are laundromats.”
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In addition to dioramas and drawings, Yi is selling 150 copies of the River of Dust mixtape (it come with download codes). All of the songs on the mixtape were created using lyrics Yi provided the musicians as inspiration. Each contributor composed his own melody and altered Yi’s lyrics as he wished.
The tape features a variety of artists Yi has met through the music community as well as a few she hasn’t actually met in person. “Like Patrick McHale (creator of the animated series Over the Garden Wall),” she says. “We met via the internet, which is a little strange. I wonder if it’s really him. I wonder if it’s really me.”
Yi decided to put on her show inside an ice cream shop because she likes the communal atmosphere of the space and because she doesn’t think art shows should be so quiet and “whispery.” She also thinks ice cream and art pair well for practical reasons: “When you have nothing to say,” she explains, “you can just stick the ice cream cone back into your mouth!”
While she thinks art should be affordable — some of the pieces in this show are priced as low as $20 — Yi would like folks with extra cash on hand to consider supporting Wolf Connection’s mission with bigger donations. Help the kids, help the wolves, and take home a one-of-a-kind piece of art. After all, Yi is an artist today, but she might be something entirely different tomorrow.