“Nothing is Hidden, But Not Everything Is Seen” India Ink on paper by Jenie Gao 11″x14″ $550
My artwork is a teaching tool. It challenges existing perspectives and encourages new conversations. In a world saturated with advertisements that cause us to tune out, art can inspire us to tune back in and pause, observe, think critically, and feel deeply about the world around us. Art gives us the power to create what we consume and to see with new eyes and insights, instead of accepting the world and circumstances as they are.
My artwork is often allegorical and illustrative, like a modern day Aesop. I tell stories of modern dilemmas and the health of our human relationships, economies, and cultures by paralleling them with nature-made ecosystems. Animals and natural environments become the actors, messengers, and stage for understanding human moral qualms. My drawings move from moments of high detail and precision to looseness and subtle shape shifting. The world is depicted as black and white, then selectively colored, regardless of the nuances of the characters and the environments they play within. Something about the permanence of ink feels decisive and immutable, though the ink is fluid and the images morphing and merging.
The weight of the artwork itself transforms the spaces that it becomes a part of. This is not artwork designed to match the couch and fade in with the other decorations. This is artwork that demands to have a presence in the room, to be recognized and included in the conversation.
The purpose of this work is to get us to think more critically of how we judge the world around us, by making us aware of the ways in which we successfully coexist with or conflict with others. It is to get us to ask, “Why does it have to be this way? How could this be different?” There is something old and retold about the stories in my work, yet made new and different. There are feelings and problems that every generation encounters and understands deeply. And so, with each generation, there are also opportunities for familiar players and characters to meet again and create new stories together. It is up to the players to decide whom to include in the conversation, and which systems to change so that those conversations are possible.
About Nothing is Hidden, But Not Everything Is Seen
In my recent series, Nothing is Hidden, I studied how birds flock together in unison, without crashing into one another, some in flocks of thousands or even millions in the case of the passenger pigeon.
I studied murmurations to understand what the purpose is of big social movements. It so happens that flocks of birds flying in murmurations are functioning as pure democracies, where no single bird takes the lead. They respond to their neighbors’ movements to know where to go. This tells us something about the function of a democracy in nature. Democracy is about protecting the individual. The individual alone is weak. But in a group, the individual becomes strong. The movements we form become create the fabric of the communities and ecosystems that define us and other lives around us.
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