"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" 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
"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" 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.
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.