Briefly describe the work you do.
I make repetitive objects that are the physical representation of some small yet concrete memory that consumes me. That makes me have these conversations with my past self. I am on that search for understanding why things are the way they are. Often times I concentrate my work on my struggles with personal and impersonal relationships. I am searching for contentment through my work. But what really is contentment but an inconsistent ephemeral moment?
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born in rural Southern China and moved to suburban Maryland when I was six. My background and observations of two vastly different cultures heavily influences me as an artist, as I recall and use objects from my past that hold deeper meanings to me. My work is full of symbolism deriving from Chinese culture, American culture, and my personal past.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice is very much still in essence the “idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room”. My work is very much process oriented and to reach a satisfactory result, I work and make until I find what my subconscious is looking for. I find working in the studio endlessly to be a relief from everyday tasks and interactions. It is my time to replay and examine those interactions. I work my neuroticism into my work through repetitive motions and decisions.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
When I first started making art, I had never envisioned using myself as part of a piece. I was first introduced to visual 3-D art through ceramics and my love for the materials is still constant. However over time, I learned how to incorporate other materials and then ways of creating into my concepts. Recently I have started incorporating performance into my work. Personally, I think it is important to keep an open mind to trying new materials and mediums to revolve around the concept, and not vice versa.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I am currently a graduate student, so I have to find time to make work around my other responsibilities of going to class, teaching class, studio duties, and other assistantship needs. I work best at night when there are less people and distractions around me. When I work, I typically have goals in mind of what I wish to achieve that day, and that time is usually after my day’s obligations.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work has always been focused around my personal memories and interactions. That concept will most likely be a constant in my work for as long as I am privileged to make art. My work has become more diverse in the ways that I produce my work. I was shy about incorporating myself previously, but I think that has opened up new doors in the way that I approach creating.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My family and friends, and even people that I interact with at Lowes have an impact on my work. The work that I do is essentially a regurgitation of my previous, present, and sometimes future interactions.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I would be an archeologist without a doubt, but an archeologist like Indiana Jones where I get to travel, explore, find ancient relics, go on adventures, and have showdowns with villains.
Xia Zhang is a Chinese American artist who moved from Guangdong, China at a very young age. Growing up in suburban Maryland in an immigrant family heavily influences the work that she creates. Xia received her BA from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and is currently working on her MFA at West Virginia University.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.