Current Works on Paper
Amy Cheng was born in Taiwan, raised in Brazil, Oklahoma and Texas. She received a BFA from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA from Hunter College, City University of New York. She has exhibited her paintings nationally and internationally; her work is held in a number of corporate and public collections. She has completed a dozen public art commissions including projects at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Howard St. El Station in Chicago, IL, the Cleveland Street Subway Station in Brooklyn, NY, the 25th Avenue Subway Station in Brooklyn, NY, the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport MetroLink Station, the Jacksonville International Airport, FL, the Slauson Bus Station, Los Angeles, CA, traffic box coverings in downtown Odessa, TX, the Valley Regional Transit Station in Boise, ID, and the Patient Services Center at Western State Hospital in Tacoma, WA . She received a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship to Renmin University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China in Spring 2017, a P.S. 122 Painting Center Fellowship in New York City for a ten month residency in 2011-12, and a Senior Lecture/Research Fulbright fellowship to Brazil in Fall 2008. She has been awarded two New York Foundation for the Arts Painting Fellowships, and an Arts International travel grant to China. She is a Professor in the Art Department at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
I have come to realize — belatedly — that at the heart of my work is the issue of identity. The Mandala series relates to my ethnic identity — the crossing of Eastern and Western cultures that I embody. The current work — a series of small, geometric, non-referential gouache and marker drawings speak to the presentation of the self.
People are complex, layered: we are comfortable with certain aspects of ourselves which we foreground or project outwardly; keeping in the distance, obscured, layered — aspects of ourselves that feel more tender, vulnerable, private. My current work speaks to the choices we make in what we reveal, how much, and when.
The drawings can also be looked at as being about the time it takes to acquire knowledge, information, acquaintanceship. We are taken in by the large, bright, obvious aspects of people and things. Truly getting to know somebody or something is a slow process. Often we are fooled by the presentation — people, after all, are known to lie even to themselves. Thus it takes time and we discover things in layers; it takes discernment and long exposure to perceive the deeper truths.
These drawings are about the slow process of unveiling, recognizing, seeing, knowing and understanding.
The Mandala Series
My paintings fuse pictorial language from three different cultural and religious traditions – Eastern Hindu-Buddhist, Middle Eastern Islamic, and European Judeo-Christian. I do not make religious art: I view my work as entirely secular. But secularism does not preclude the spiritual, the contemplative, the mystical, or the sacred. If pressed I would admit I think all art making is devotional. I believe when we are telling stories, singing, dancing, drawing, carving, we are directly engaged in spiritual activities that takes us out of time into a different realm.
Sumptuous, intricate, ornamented, my oil paintings are richly referential – they call to mind a range of associations from mandalas, the cosmos, cells, lace, brocade and more. I align myself with the long tradition of geometric and floral ornamentation the Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, and European craftsmen have long employed. They did so with the implicit understanding that pattern and repetition, which are endemic in nature, are primal in their rhythmic connection to the human nervous system.
I identify my work with the long tradition of visual artists interested in notions of cosmology. I am, as my friend the artist Thomas Lyon Mills says, painting worlds within worlds with the aim of revealing profound, contemplative, slow, truths.
Blog on my website of my 2017 travels in Asia, including a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship at Renmin Univ. in Beijing
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