Untitled (Birds)


I made this piece as a part of a reflection on my identity as a Chinese-American, and on my geographic ties to the Midwest and California, because our experiences and identities are intimately linked to spaces and places. I used birds as symbols: the red-crowned crane is a classic icon in Chinese culture (it appears ubiquitously in traditional ink paintings); the cardinal is the state bird of Illinois (and I remember seeing it every summer in our backyard); and finally the red-winged blackbird (a common sight on Stanford’s campus I’d eventually learned to identify once I’d become a docent at the local nature preserve). I’ve arranged them to be resting against a sun, which also doubles as the outside circle for a yin-yang symbol. The birds, in turn, form the lines of the curves and dots within the yin-yang. I chose this composition to demonstrate that these components of my identity exist in harmony. The choice of only 3 core colors (red, black, and white) is deliberate too: it was an artistic challenge to make the most of less, and to articulate my ideas succinctly in the fewest possible colors. I later annotated the painting with both my Chinese name and “乡土” (homeland).