Lily Yeh is a global artist who is fueled by a belief that art is a human right, and that artists can create a foundation for profound social change. Slight of frame, but large in spirit and vision, the 70-year-old artist was born in China, lives in Philadelphia, and now, as constant traveler, the world is her canvas.
Our film explores two sides of Lily’s life that are connected parts of the same journey: her international ventures helping to heal weakened spirits in communities in North America, Africa, China, and India, and a personal journey within, to repair her own fractured family. To embrace the latter, Lily embarks on a trip to China to trace her father’s life, in hopes of resolving life-long guilt that was passed from father to daughter.
The Barefoot Artist traces Lily’s evolution as an artist – from her first exposure to Chinese landscape painting as a young girl in China to the hauntingly beautiful memorial she designed to honor the victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It shows her methodology for community building – using art as the foundation – which she has developed over many years as she has worked in impoverished communities around the world. Finally, it reveals the source of her quest, and the personal costs of a life committed to the public.