During my Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant, I spent 10-months at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, where I studied ink painting and was an artist-in-residence in the ceramics department. Considering art as a reflection of the interior world of its maker, it allowed for a clear and genuine lens into the specific interests, psychologies, and motivations of the people in my studio during this period. Prior to my time in China, I had not considered art as a tool for cultural exchange, but the questions that sourced from discussions of each person’s work often moved from the work itself to considerations of its place in contemporary art in China, America, and beyond.
People seemed to view my work and me as equally viable specimens for inspection of what it means to be an American and what American art looks like. There was an interest in the way work was rendered, comments surrounding its content, and discussions of its aesthetic that ultimately led to dialogues about what it means to be an American and the fact that there is no universal definition, as America is an immigrant, hybrid nation. In this respect, art became my primary means of creating mutual understanding and serving as a cultural ambassador. The first question people would ask when they walked through the studio was, “Who made this?” followed by “Where is he from?” These questions opened up spaces for further dialogue around the intersection of Chinese and American art, and sometimes led to discussions of the intersection of China and America.