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Artist's Joy: Nancy XiáoRong Valentine and 4 pieces from various projects

Valentine pulled a selection from across her oeuvre and shared insights on each.

Artist's Joy: Nancy XiáoRong Valentine and 4 pieces from various projects
'Untitled' | 9” x 12” Watercolor + Chinese ink on cold pressed watercolor paper | Created in 2018 as a part of 'Summer Sessions' solo exhibition at Workhorse Coffee Bar in St. Paul, Minn., a part of 2019 exhibition titled 'Body Positivity' at New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, and again as a part of 'Endless Scroll…' at Waage Theatre at M State Fergus Falls in 2020. (Courtesy of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine)

Untitled

"Untitled" is an abstract self portrait I created in June of 2018 using watercolor and Chinese ink. This painting brings me joy because it's the first artwork I created that truly reflected my stylized brushwork. Originally a part of a series titled "Summer Sessions," this painting has set itself apart as a stand-alone artwork that has been exhibited in multiple multi-artist and solo exhibitions.

'Kokeshi Doll' |24” x 30” Recycled latex paint on canvas | Created in February 2022 as a part of 'Half Chinese, All American: My Diasporic Diary' at Prairie Renaissance Cultural Alliance Gallery in Morris, Minn. Photo taken at Fergus Falls Public Library, which acquired the painting for their permanent collection in June 2022. (Courtesy of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine)
'Kokeshi Doll' |24” x 30” Recycled latex paint on canvas | Created in February 2022 as a part of 'Half Chinese, All American: My Diasporic Diary' at Prairie Renaissance Cultural Alliance Gallery in Morris, Minn. Photo taken at Fergus Falls Public Library, which acquired the painting for their permanent collection in June 2022. (Courtesy of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine)

Kokeshi Doll

"Kokeshi Doll" is a painting about exploring and "discovering" my cultural identity as a Chinese woman raised in the Western Asian Diaspora, as well as an experiment in translating technique across mediums. Kokeshi dolls are of Japanese origin, but I did not come to understand this until adulthood because of the western gaze I was socially conditioned to hold. The colors and energy of this painting represent the emotional state I was experiencing during that season of learning the distinctions among and between the vast number of cultural identities that fall under the umbrella of “Asian.”

'Yin & Yang' | 21” x 21” Recycled latex and acrylic paint on wood panel | Created fall 2021 as a part of the 'Lake Region Artist Cohort Exhibition' in Studio K at Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls, Minn. Photo taken at that exhibition. (Courtesy of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine)
'Yin & Yang' | 21” x 21” Recycled latex and acrylic paint on wood panel | Created fall 2021 as a part of the 'Lake Region Artist Cohort Exhibition' in Studio K at Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls, Minn. Photo taken at that exhibition. (Courtesy of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine)

Yin & Yang

"Yin & Yang" is a painting about family secrets and saving face. The koi fish represent the Taìjí tú concept in Chinese philosophy of interconnected interdependence of darkness and light, feminine and masculine, or chaos and peace. Symbols used in this painting were inspired by Vaatu and Raava, energetic spirits depicted in "Avatar: The Last Airbender," an animated television show I watched with my older brother during our youth. The layers of this painting represent the ways in which Asian families articulate narratives that often allude to difficult truths in ways that allow them to maintain their positive public reputations.

'Tiger Mom' | 3’ x 6’ Watercolor + Chinese ink on rice paper dry mounted to silk brocade | Created in spring 2021 as a part of 'The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America: we owe you no apologies,' a project of Springboard for the Arts’ Artists Respond: Equitable Rural Futures. Photo taken during solo exhibition at MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, Minn., April to May 2022. (Courtesy of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine)
'Tiger Mom' | 3’ x 6’ Watercolor + Chinese ink on rice paper dry mounted to silk brocade | Created in spring 2021 as a part of 'The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America: we owe you no apologies,' a project of Springboard for the Arts’ Artists Respond: Equitable Rural Futures. Photo taken during solo exhibition at MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, Minn., April to May 2022. (Courtesy of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine)

Tiger Mom

"Tiger Mom" is about understanding cultivated through intention and personal evolution.This painting was created during a time when I was trying to "bridge the cultural gap" between me, an American-born Chinese woman, and my mother, a Chinese-born Chinese woman. The posture of the tiger juxtaposed with the baby shoes represents the ferocity of motherhood that comes out when the wellbeing of one's offspring is threatened, which, in my experience as a part of a first generation immigrant household, was constant.

Artist Nancy XiáoRong Valentine (Courtesy of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine)
Artist Nancy XiáoRong Valentine (Courtesy of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine)

Meet the artist

Nancy XiáoRong Valentine is a Chinese American artist living and making a life in rural Otter Tail County, Minnesota. Conceived as the second child of a family residing in Lanzhou, Gansu during the era of China’s ‘One Child Policy,’ Valentine views her artistry as a channel to deepen her cultural connections to and between her Chinese heritage and Midwestern roots. Valentine’s artwork is woven with nuance and symbolism resulting in conceptually complex and vibrant visual stories meant to evoke empathy.

This feature was originally published in the Project Optimist newsletter on Jan. 4, 2023.

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