Brian Chu was born in Taiwan in 1955 to a middle-class family that had recently arrived from North China. He and Shiao-Ping Wang married in Taiwan, and came to the United States together in 1981. After Chu immigrated to the U.S, he got his BFA (1991) and MFA (1993) from Queens College in New York. He is currently teaching drawing and painting at the University of New Hampshire.
Chu showed his artistic talent as a child; however, his family restricted him from being an artist, using the word “nonsense” to describe his interest in art. He chose to study math because, he said, “I never thought I could be an artist.” After coming to the United States, he started a business, but later returned to school; after meeting many great art professors, “spiritually rich artists” as he describes them, he decided to become an artist. Chu and Wang have moved around the US for various professional opportunities, and Chu has become accustomed to a drifting lifestyle. Migration, he said, is “really uncomfortable, but I want to explore more of this unusual taste.”
Lihua Lei was born in Taiwan in 1966 and came to US in 1991 to study art therapy; she later earned her MFA in sculpture from the University of Iowa. Her studies brought her to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and she subsequently made her home in Maine.
When Lei was four months old, she contracted polio which left her with one leg markedly shorter than the other. Since Lei’s parents were farmers, they dried rice in their own yard during harvest time. Lei’s job was to chase away with a long bamboo stick the scavenging birds that came to steal food. While she was sitting there silently, watching the birds around her, she invented many stories about the lives of these creatures. One of the stories featured a sick baby bird whose parents were busy looking for a doctor to have a home visit. As an adult Lei realized that such stories reflected her own childhood desires and fears as a sick child. Today, her art works are built not only to nurture and strengthen her spirit, but also for the welfare of children and youth.
Ni Rong was born in Beijing in 1957. As a child, Rong dreamt of becoming a doctor, but her father was opposed to the idea because he feared she would be sent to a remote province by the PRC government. After getting her BS in Biology from Beijing Normal University, taught for a period, and then in 1985 came to the United States on a scholarship from the World Bank. She earned her PhD. in exercise physiology at Tufts University, but eventually switched to a career in banking. She sees her immigration to the United States as an opportunity that helped her experience the world and gain a new perspective on life.
Rong’s passion for photography goes back to her father, a Chinese diplomat who was stationed in Moscow. He was passionate about photography and bought Ni Rong a camera that she used in her early days, not aware that one day she would become a photographer or artist. Over the past five years, , photography has become Rong’s way of connecting different worlds. In her own words “every piece of art is a self-reflection”, and she is aiming to inspire people through her work.
Ling-Wen Tsai was born in Taiwan and lived there for the first 25 years of her life. Tsai received her BS in nursing from Chung-Shan Medical University before immigrating to the United States. She received her MFA in sculpture from Washington University in St. Louis. Tsai currently lives and works in Portland, where she is Associate Professor and Chair of the Sculpture Department at Maine College of Art.
Ling-Wen uses a diverse variety of media to express her feelings of displacement and belonging that have resulted from her journey to the United States. Her contemporary use of traditional Chinese ink illustrates both her Eastern and Western influences, as well as breaks down the stereotypes of traditional Chinese painting and what it means to be a Chinese American artist.
Though Tsai now thinks of Taiwan as her first home and Maine as her second, the transient nature of her lifestyle has also left her with a sensation of “homelessness” and a desire to find her space. She has stated that Maine is important to her because it has given her plenty of space to think and work. She incorporates conceptual space into her art as well, for it is important to her not to provide too much information to viewers; instead she prefers to allow space for them to think and self-reflect
Nanfei Wang was born in Tonghua City, Jilin Province, People’s Republic of China. Her interest in art began at the age of five when she mistook a set of watercolor paints in a store as candy. A family friend bought her the ‘candy’ alongside some other art supplies; from that point on she has been painting. Wang was trained in Fine Arts at the Northeast Normal University, Changchun, Jilin, after which she worked briefly in magazine and television communications in Beijing. She attended the University of North Texas, located in Denton, Texas, and received her MFA in drawing, painting and sculpture.
After returning to Beijing, she established a studio and began to show her work in galleries in the 798 Art Zone, but she also began traveling and finding inspiration in every place she visited. While she was visiting Thailand she learned to cook traditional Thai foods, which are a delicate balance between “sweet and salty,” a phrase that Wang uses as a metaphor in much of her art. Nanfei Wang has also always been very concerned with human relationships and reactions in her works while constantly trying to find a balance between the good and the bad, or between “sweet and salty”. Nanfei Wang and her husband bought an old house in Rockland, Maine in June, 2011, and she has been living in Maine year-round since 2013.
Shiao-Ping Wang was born in Taiwan to parents who had emigrated from Mainland China. Growing up, she says, her father often spoke of China, reminding her about a home elsewhere. In 1981, she and her husband immigrated to the United States, where Wang studied art and earned her MFA from Queens College, City University of New York. She and husband, artist Brian Chu, currently work in Rollinsford, New Hampshire, just a few yards from the Maine border.
Through her art, Wang hopes to allow the viewer to enter an introspective space, “to make you think and examine, and that is important to it all.” The media in which she works suggest her philosophy; in painting, she is attracted to the gesso layer, which detaches her from her canvas, giving her the distance and space within which to reflect and create. In her layered works, she more makes even more striking use of what she calls “the space between.” Her lattice works were inspired by her attraction to pattern and repetition, based on Chinese lattice-work windows, but only through the process of creating the artworks did she realize what she was looking for—a window through which to see herself.
Yuan Zuo studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing before immigrating to the United States in 1982. He graduated in 1988 from Massachusetts College of Art with a BFA and MFA. Yuan taught in the Boston area for twenty some years before becoming an Associate Professor at the Academy of Arts and Design of Tsinghua University (Beijing) in 2008. He is also the Director of Inside-Out Art Museum in Beijing, a non-profit art museum focused on contemporary painting. He has also founded an artists’ retreat in Bristol, Maine, where he and others paint.
Yuan is interested in the relationship between medium and brush and asserts that narrative elements are secondary to the movement and energy of the space created. Activating the paint to create dynamic brushstrokes involves the entire body.