The visual language of Christianity has been the lens through which I have learned to process, understand, and experience the human body. While slowly settling into my own sexuality, and recognizing the defects of institutionalized religion, I began to distinguish the complexities of my relationship to God, as well as my identity as a first-generation American. Like everything in my life, consciously or not, my work uses Christianity as a starting point and the means in which I investigate my own perception of the world.
Reflecting upon baroque figurative painting and modern perceptions of the body, imagery in my work is used as a tool of narrative and meaning-making that conveys a relationship between iconography, sexual expression, and psychological materialization. Painting my body offers a controlled method of manifesting and digesting my own thoughts, and the clarity of my materiality alerts the viewers of their own physical makeup. I want the viewer to be as aware of paint as they are of their own skin - to be aware not only of their physical existence in space, but of the spiritual, cognitive, and emotional complexities that exist both internally and externally.
I am currently investigating the relationship between location, time, memory and personal experiences through representations of my family. Because of moving and other reasons, I have a special relationship with my family. I have a different understanding from many people of what it means to be home.
In my life and work, I reflect on location and time, becoming more and more aware of my surroundings. I use my phone to document things I wish to remember or I thought would be interesting. As my documentation goes on, I realize that home has become a place that seems a bit strange for me. Since I haven’t spent much time with my family, there are a lot of things I don’t know or I was told a long time after.
Because of my grandmother’s dementia, I was struck by the fact that she may not have a memory of me and everything that has happened. Every time I go to my grandparent’s house, things have changed, either people or my grandparent’s health. Yet the decoration still looks the same since I was five years old. I find similarities between my grandmother’s current situation and myself for the reason that I cannot seem to relate my family experience in China to my current life here in the U.S.
My paintings are abstract representations of my grandparent’s house and my grandparents. I wish to create a sense of distance and ambiguous narrative with gestural brushstrokes and painting in thin layers. I paint so that I could remember and share that unfamiliarity with my viewers.
I guess it all comes back to home. Virginia. Boston. Venice. Wherever we end up. And maybe that’s why I’ve been making these things. These homes-for-later. Places that aren’t useful to us now, but will be, I hope.
But the ‘where’ is important too. I do know that. It’s hard to talk about that directly and I guess that’s why I’ve been using other objects, other shapes. Like the wasp nest that sits in the tippy top of one of the oaks behind the den, or the home the wrens built on the ladder in the garage or the squirrels who were forced to live outside instead of the attic. It all comes back to home.
But I struggle with realism and when it’s okay to make things up. I need to get better at asking for help, and not burdening myself as much. And maybe letting people know how I really feel about things is important too.
I think about family. Being the ‘third.’ Knowing that I’m the last guy who could pass down the Doley name. How that doesn’t matter to me anymore. Because while those things are complicated there are simple things too.
Sitting in the space between my Dad’s bent legs and the couch. Crying to my Mom when I finally told her I wanted to be an artist. Baba’s garden at Harbor House and the mystery of who was stealing her tomatoes. After dinner downtown, skipping back to the car with your siblings. Arriving in Venice after spending a year apart.
When I think about those things, the rest seems to make sense.
Top left: Home for Hiding, 2019. 10.5” x 7.5” x 3”. Acrylic paint, bark, and wood. Bottom left: Untitled Installation at my parents’ house, 2018-present. 36” x 36” tarp suspended 4 feet off the ground.
Flowers have a life in the lines of their petals, the color of their shadows, and the elegant shapes that happen when they are reaching for the sun to grow or wilting, slowly curling out away from their body. One could say the same about the human figure—a beautiful elegance naturally lives in our curves and lines. This essence is what I strive to evoke in my paintings and my woodcut prints.
I am exploring different ways to convey flowers and figures while also diving into the formalities of shape and color. Georgia O’Keeffe once said, ”I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.” Similar to O’Keeffe, I see something and break it down by shape and color. My art engages the balance between the abstract and the realistic. I use flowers as a vehicle for finding abstract compositions and as a jumping off point for investigating the characteristics of color and paint.
In my paintings, I have been applying paint in an almost sculptural way, trying to create a conversation between thin and thick and between the suggestion of figures and flowers. Figures and flowers are both old subjects in art history that I am trying to re-calibrate and, as opposed to O’Keeffe, I am taking a more process based approach that puts emphasis on the growth of the painting as opposed to the imagery.
Each painting is informing the next and they are growing with each other. Growing and changing as flowers and people do.
Top, left: Edges, 2019 Middle, left: Leaving, 2019 Bottom, left: Her name is Lily, 2019
In my paintings, I explore many facets of voyeurism through personal experience. I’m interested in seeing how the energy of an entity’s palimpsest affects people and how I can guide them into feeling a certain way – whether that be tenderness, foreboding, or something a bit more indescribable. By removing most, if not all, of my body from an image, the point of view becomes anonymous; this allows the observer a preview into a spectrum of private moments. Then I assess the reactions: does the viewer feel as if they are intruding? Does my memory draw out a memory of their own? Does a sense of uneasiness permeate their bodies or do they feel warm and comforted? Do they not feel anything at all? Then, I find out what aspects of my paintings gave the response I was looking for and which ones fell short. I can then channel and apply the characteristics that received a certain reaction and work those components into the next painting. Theresponses I seek out change occasionally as I enjoy playing with a wide range of emotions, however I work mostly with the uncanny.
My focus with this emotional influence is working on finding the fine line between vapid and over exaggerated when experimenting with the uncanny. Especially with the exponential advancements in technology, this strange, uncomfortable feeling is becoming more and more prominent. Right now I am delving into the subtle side of the uncanny and seeing how small things of an otherwise normal image can unsettle the viewer. In pursuing this research, I plan to continue pushing the boundaries with how I can efficiently manipulate the emotions of the onlooker with the nuances of the disquieting.
In my studio, I use the language of painting with unconventional mediums such as fabric, steel, Poly-fil stuffing, and embroidery thread to investigate the concept of femininity and the feminized body. I channel the voices of feminist writers and artist before me, like Margaret Atwood and Cindy Sherman, and the voices of the women in my life - the voices of my mother, sister, and sorority sisters. As a traditionally feminine girl, my experience of my own identity has been as delightful as it has been confusing. I have undergone emotional turmoil in reconciling this utterly negative view of the feminine with my own experience of the feminine as being strong-willed but compassionate, tough as nails but never jaded, and emotional beasts of burden that still thrill every day at the experience of being alive. I recognized these characteristics in men around me as well, and I wanted the world to embrace these traits instead of suppressing them.
Symbols for femininity like the color pink, soft, yielding flesh, embellishment, and emotional vulnerability incite feelings of warmth in me. I am interested in engaging viewers in an all-encompassing experience where they are encouraged to take comfort, and feel freely, and be vulnerable. I want my viewer to see the world of the feminine as I see it, a world vibrating with intensity, joy, warmth, and strength that inevitably follows the manifold pains that are inherent in experiencing femininity in today’s society. This strength is not brutal. It invites openness, tears, followed by belly-shaking laughter. I want my viewers to share in the joy of being feminine through touching my pillows. I encourage them to have a bodily connection, as when one embraces a loved one. Being feminine is an overwhelmingly bodily experience, where one’s body is trained to be yielding and small when one wants to explode outward, showing strength and taking up space. Being tethered to the body while navigating the emotional and psychic is essential to femininity.
Art is my own place. The paint is there for myself. No one needs to see it, I don’t care what reaction is achieves. The images are put down so as to get them out of my head. Life is a lot sometimes. Sometimes it’s really bad. Sometimes it’s really good. Either way, I can enter my studio and release thoughts without guilt or expectations. I am here for myself when often times I can’t be. If someone needs something from me, it may require all of my energy. But in my paintings there is nothing but myself. Once alone, suppressed emotions, thoughts, or feelings can come up and breathe. I can breathe. Usually for the first time that week. There is no restricted area in my mind, everything is accessible and eligible to appear in paint. I know it’s mine. Even if it’s the most atrocious piece of art on this planet, its mine. It’s little doodles and endless thoughts that have leaked from my brain. Everything is time sensitive. Once the emotion has left me, the painting has too. Reflecting on paintings can be painful or uncomfortable, knowing what I was feeling then, and how I feel now. As I keep painting, I am learning more about myself. And isn’t most art trying to express what the artist feels within herself in the most purest form?
Top, left: No. 1, 3’ x 2’ Ink and Oil Pastel Middle, left: No. 2, 10” x 10” Crayola Wax Bottom, left: No. 3, 10” x 10” Crayola Wax
I have always been fascinated by worn and eroded surfaces and how one creates a second surface with its own history in the process of recording these textures through painting on canvas. When my starting surface is a Greek or Roman sculpture fragment, particularly that of a female form, then the role of both the artist and the viewer in this process of transformation becomes a particularly pressing question. Looking at statues and statue fragments of female figures from Greece and Rome and repainting them so that they sit on the line between flesh and stone, I am at once confronting their status as significant figures in the history of Western art and as individual artistic objects with an individual history, worn down and transformed through time.
In this liminal space between dead and alive, frozen and in motion, stone and flesh, I also confront the myth of Pygmalion and his statue-bride. Pygmalion is not interested in any living women, but instead desires for his sculpture to come to life. In the original myth Pygmalion’s wish is granted by Aphrodite and he goes on to have a family with his own creation, now come to life. Through the centuries this myth has been reimagined by countless artists and writers. Some continue to give Pygmalion his prize, but more begin to ask—what about his sculpture? What about Galatea?
In this series of work I want to examine what lies behind our persistent desire for our art to come to life. This is not an accusation, but an exploration. It is almost impossible to view things without enliving them in our imagination. But what does it mean to desire to see art, particularly Greek and Roman sculpture, reanimated? Can an act of appreciation also be an act of violence? What is the role of a classical conception of beauty in contemporary art?
I paint looking out my studio window, squinting to see what I can and sometimes imagining what I can’t. These paintings often depict trees along the highway, grass, snow—moments of looking that make me either laugh or pause as I wonder what has happened in these spaces. As shifts occur in my perception, I repaint areas while I struggle to figure out what I’m seeing. My painting process is somewhat reactive, consisting of my perceptual experience compiled with what I feel to be the most important thing to record at the moment I’m doing so. This leads to layers, muddy areas and impasto that indicate the passing of time. An interesting impossibility of uncovering what’s “actually” there arises from this.
I think a lot about connections between myself, others, and the places I spend my time. I am interested in the psychology of this, and how my work deals with interaction, perception of experience, and emotions that become associated with experience. Therefore, the limitations of my subjectivity also play a role in the creation of these paintings. How do I paint what I can barely see, and where does perception cross over into imagination?
My goal is to use the elements of critical thinking, creative perspective, and innovation to raise questions about our world regarding twenty-first century issues. I aspire to use my painting skills to create bold statements while experimenting with artistic techniques that emphasize and convey the seriousness in my intent to stimulate social change. I believe that art is a language that can transcend cultural barriers because anyone can interpret art. Art created to make a social statement or reconsider current mindsets is the most important kind because it highlights issues and demands a solution.
I believe that art has the ability to speak to people, reveal new points of view, and incite thinking otherwise. Being Chinese American has always been of great importance to who I am as a person and how I view the world. My most recent work has focused on my experiences as a minority. I do not attempt to speak for all Asian Americans, but I do hope to bring to light the problems we face in order to spark conversations and incite change.
Top, left: All Asians Look The Same Bottom, left: If You Can’t Read It, You Probably Shouldn’t Tattoo It On Your Body Forever Just For The Aesthetics
My current paintings are my search for objective truth in constructed true crime narratives. Any painting I make is also an attempt to bushwhack to the center of how the media I consume affects my day to day understanding of my identity. Narrative painting itself is a reconstruction of events and imagery labored over by an inherently distrustful narrator. By examining and recycling images from true crime shows that signal narrative tropes I endeavor to investigate how Americans mythologize crime narratives in order to instill faith in the justice system and objective truth. These true crime narratives condense real life events into a neat linear package which has already gone through layers of obfuscation and retelling in the court of law. All of these television episodes end with a clear resolution that reaffirms our faith in the criminal justice system and forensic science two entities that are often untrustworthy and undefinable. Given the never-ending cycle of how media informs reality and reality informs media I would ideally want my work to be the shit that this ouroboros-like structure expels at the end of the day. The paintings function as a non-linear narrative that contain forensic truths and American lies in an ecosystem of imagery that confuses space, place and time but clarifies the American mythos justice. What is justice? What is truth? Who is implicated in the act of viewing? Is it me?
Shuang Shuang (Susan) Wu
My work explores the sublime that comes with the grandeur of nature. The landscape I grew up in had a heavy influence on my perception of the world and my relationship with nature. Growing up on the west coast of British Columbia, I was surrounded by dense forestry and vast coastlines. The grandeur that comes along with an expansive landscape presents the sobering idea of the minuity
of people against nature.
Working with linen and canvas, I prime the surface with a clear gesso so it retains its original tint. I’m interested in exploring the relationship between the painted and unpainted aspects of a work and the tension it creates. The paint I use is heavily diluted with solvents and the colour is mixed to fabricate ink but perform like oil. Through pouring and staining the surface, the material is then in charge of dictating the pictorial scene rather than a direct representation of the landscape. This process emphasizes the the relationship between the medium and surface, thus eschewing from direct representation.
Caspar David Friedrich and Norman Ackroyd are both artists that had a heavy influence on my current collection of work. Friedrich is celebrated for his romantic landscape paintings, but his light ink drawings were what inspired me. Ackroyd’s aquatint prints of dark atmospheric coastal scenes also left an imprint in my mind. During the creation of my paintings I’d been studying Chinese landscape paintings, which had also unconsciously seeped into my work. Elements such as the use of mist to obstruct the landscape and the expansive yet layered composition were key influencers.
Through the process of material consideration, I also dive into a deeper level of subject consideration. Painting landscape goes beyond direct depiction of the beauty of nature, but helps to explore my relationship with nature and the world. The right to paint a specific type of scenery has been a struggle of mine. Growing up with the Rockies gives me a sense of ownership of the landscape, yet I’m constantly inspired by new landscapes that I’m a stranger to. This shift alters my perception of my right to appropriate the land despite the connection I have with it. Through this contemplation of authority, I’ve realized that we do not change the land, it’s the land that changes us and our perception of who were are. When confronted by the grandeur of the scenery we can’t help but feel small and minute. Approaching landscape through abstraction feels appropriate as the expansive landscapes not only contain abstractions in its forms, but also in the very idea of its existence.