Materials: Porcelain, Cobalt Oxide
Project Advisor: Meghan Sullivan
Year of Graduation: 2019
Copyright for this work is held by the artist.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License
sculpture, chinese, urns, zodiac, porcelain
Family Portrait tells a personal story about family, loss, and culture. The urns, one for each of my parents and myself, reference traditional blue and white Chinese pottery. However, despite evoking that familiar style, the brushwork and patterning are not faithful to the historical tradition. I was born in China and adopted as a baby by a white American family. Just like my urns, I initially present as thoroughly Chinese, despite the fact that I have been removed from the culture I appear to belong to.
The urns feature our Chinese Zodiac animals. My mother, the rabbit, is hopeful, gentle, and compassionate. My father and I share a zodiac animal, the Ox. Together we are industrious, stubborn, and caring. Beside the urns for my mother and myself are sculptures of our zodiac animals, physical representations of our bodies in the world. My father, who died in 2012, has no zodiac sculpture. Instead his urn stands where his body should be. As I consider how I carry on the legacy of parents with whom I share no genetic information, and one of whom is no longer on this earth, this piece demonstrates how my parents have shaped me. I take me and my father’s shared zodiac animal as a sign of what he passed down to me, and the things we will always have in common. The urns are a kind of memento mori, a reminder that some day my mother and I will also die, leaving our legacies behind.
The decorations on the urns have their own symbolic meaning. My mother is surrounded by feminine flowers that represent growth, life, and the sustenance of the world. My father steps out of a forest of bamboo, symbols of resilience and strength. He wades into a pond, away from the world. The imagery on my urn combines the two, from the feminine and worldly flowers to the same pond out of which I wade, towards the world my father left. My family tree reaches up from the ground, connecting me to my parents, as well as the birth parents I will never know.