top of page
5326c42fckf65b900bfde8bc27a94e5a 2.JPG

Looking for Bamboo

The town of Shenyang - 41 degrees north latitude in the country of China, a land of frigid colds reaching in the negative 30 degrees Celsius, and my home. Here, I was raised, studied, and spent my formative years. Alongside my peers, I spent my youth learning the art of traditional Chinese painting. At the heart of the subjects we depicted was the bamboo plant, a national symbol I encountered frequently. Only, in my home of Shenyang, bamboo cannot survive the extreme cold of the climate.

Growing older, I began to question the notions of bamboo as part of our cultural identity, a signifier of our nation I had never witnessed myself. I traveled south with a friend on a quest to find these bamboo plants that I only knew through reproductions and my own imagination. I found them. I stood in awe of the bamboo rhizome. I returned to Shenyang. I was faced with the reality of the environment where I was raised. Every time I drew bamboo, I was hyper-aware of the fact that bamboo did not truly represent everyone within my culture. Just as the soil beneath my feet could not sustain the plant, I realized how unsustainable the monotony of life in my town was for me. I needed to find the real bamboo forest. 

Bamboo was a fantasy. Walking the streets of my city, I witnessed people attempting to recreate the plant with lookalikes that could flourish in the cold of these northern cities. The plant has become an ideal of beauty and elegance associated with a southern warmth constantly strived for by the peripheral communities. 
I wanted to question the blind group mentality where bamboo is worshiped as an iconic aspect of Chinese culture despite its inability to universally represent the people. Bamboo has become the vehicle for presenting the absurdity of the paralyzing acceptance my community, and others like mine, have experienced in the absence of these natural elements being part of our own unique cultural context.

In these moments the rice paper begins to shatter, break, and fall apart. Each situation is dictated by my instinctive consciousness. The process alludes to an ancient Chinese form of torture, "雨浇梅花", where prisoners were interrogated and suffered under the weight of soaked layers of rice paper smothering their faces. Today, the rice paper that once enveloped my body has gradually peeled away symbolizes my continual struggle to free myself. While the paper disintegrates before me the paper’s ink now lingers on my skin, remaining as a silent yet haunting reminder of the inescapable ever-present forces in our lives.
bottom of page