Humans of Harker: Essence of expression

Shreya Balakrishnan communicates their emotions through art and fashion


Jessica Tang

“When I’m in despair and anguish, I’ll make something really jarring. My work goes like that. Based off of how I’m feeling, I put that in my work. Art in general expresses who we are because it’s everyone’s art, your art, my art,” Shreya Balakrishnan (12) said.

As you walk into Shreya Balakrishnan’s (12) AP Art Exhibit, the striking images on display jump off the walls and come to life. From dissociation to body dysmorphia, Shreya takes their audience on a journey through their own emotions, tackling intricate subjects through their images and photographs. 

Shreya’s work is not always easy to digest. Each image aims to elicit a specific and often intense reaction from the viewer, but this is what makes their work so compelling. Shreya strives to leave a lasting impression on the audience and reach out to support other people with similar struggles. They hope that through their work, people will walk away with an enlightened perspective or learn something new. 

“I hope my art makes you think about struggles in general,” Shreya said. “I like creating jarring work because it’s important for your art to have an impact. I really love to create art that impacts people and makes them feel something and sticks with them for a long time.”

Thinking outside of the box and straying away from established norms and conventions characterize Shreya’s approach to art. They continuously find ways to adapt and expand their art style to meet the standard of their never-ending ambitions.

“I have a very chaotic mind, and I just love chaos,” Shreya said. “I started drawing characters with long necks and intense eye bogs. I’ve just been really into that. I usually do that a lot. That’s my usual art style.”

Part of what makes Shreya’s work so captivating is their ability to incorporate a piece of themselves in every aspect of their work. From the lines they draw to the photographs they take to the finesse they use in assembling their art pieces, Shreya incorporates their own mood, feelings and individuality into the every facet of their work. 

When I’m in despair and anguish, I’ll make something really jarring, Shreya said. My work goes like that. Based off of how I’m feeling, I put that in my work. Art in general expresses who we are because it’s everyone’s art, your art, my art.

The passion Shreya pours into her artwork successfully appeals to their viewers. Close friend Claire Chen (12) valued Shreya’s ability to integrate a personal aspect of themself into their art. 

“Art is definitely an outlet, a way for them to express themselves,” Claire said. “I am glad they found their passion. They also put political opinions in there too, which makes it really personal and interesting.”

Close friend Aastha Mangla (12) first met Shreya in seventh grade before they began engaging with art. Aastha had already sensed their love for self expression, but after seeing their exhibits in-person, their passion and talent really stood out to Aastha. 

“Shreya explores a lot of media, and they’re also really involved in social media.” Aastha said “They’re always taking the time to learn more. I’ve never seen them stick with a certain style and then keep doing it. They’re always expanding and growing. You can clearly see they have a lot of passion for art and fashion and photography, just from the way that they they keep educating themselves about it like they’re never satisfied with what they’ve already learned.”

For Shreya, expression is everywhere. Even in the act of choosing the everyday outfits they wear to school, Shreya considers meaning. Every detail of their attire is intentional and thought-out, and they overlook no feature, no matter how small, before leaving the house in the mornings. 

“I’ll dress very forest-y one day, and then the next day I’ll dress really scary, but it always varies,” Shreya said. “I can never stick to one style. That’s frustrating because I want to choose one style to be cohesive, but at the same time, I’m like, ‘No, no, I’m a chaotic person, so I can’t just have one style.’”

As someone who strongly believes in being true to themselves, Shreya’s strong and unapologetic personality often presents itself in their social life. Aastha appreciates Shreya’s role as a confidant in their friendship, as well as their honesty and confidence.

“Shreya says everything that they’re thinking without any apologies,” Aastha said. “They’re also very conscious of other people. When they say things, they’ll speak their mind, but they won’t do it in a way where someone else feels offended, or hurt. They’re a very sensitive person who has a big personality.” 

Navigating the constantly changing ways of high school, Shreya learned to overcome the hurdles in their way. Yet, ultimately, through art, fashion and all forms of self-expression, Shreya realized that the most important thing a person can do is to stay true to themselves. 

“High school, as I look back now, is insignificant,” Shreya said. “When you think of your entire life, it’s really not that deep. You just have be who you are. Be happy, and be your genuine, authentic self.”