Part 1 of the Mei Nu Series, 2015
Dragon Lady
Acrylic on plastic, wood, steel
11.5 x 10.5 x 22.5”

Exploring themes of Chineseness, and Chinese identity, the Mei Nu series examines the process of relearning culture through mass reproduction and cultural symbols. The name of the series literally translates to ‘beautiful girl/woman’ and is a common complimentary phrase used in the service and retail industries of Mainland China. Referencing the porcelain and lacquer busts of Ah Xian, the two works in the series feature plastic mannequin busts adorned with traditional Chinese decorative designs such as dragons, animals, flowers, and landscapes. Though ornamented with similar subject matter, the casts of the bodies in Mei Nu were created for commercial purposes: headless, uniform, and a marker of it’s own objectivity.

Dragon Lady is based off of embroidery designs from the robes of Chinese emperors and empresses. An emblem of power and status, the traditional dragon symbol is transcribed on a bust to investigate themes of cultural intersection, exotification, and orientalism in a series of multilayered oppositions.

The juxtaposition between the sculptural form of the bust and the painted surfaces parallel the traditions of the West and the East – The bust as a Western portraiture tradition dating back to ancient Roman times and the designs derived from Chinese decorative traditions.* The meticulous painting marks the shift from labour intensive traditions of Chinese crafts to mass-produced items. The process of painting is an act of mapping the artist’s continual process of reassimulating with her heritage. Bordering between traditional Chinese attire and East Asian themed tattoos, the designs characterize the indelibility of one’s cultural background and its reinterpreted forms.

* China Reconfigured: The Art of Ah Xian. (n.d.). Asia Society.