My current work reflects the anxiety I have experienced as a foreigner living in America and adapting to its culture. In examining this matter, I choose food as the subject because it is not only the essential in our daily life, but also an entry point for foreigner to understand an unfamiliar culture. In my paintings, I use realistic style and surrealistic approach juxtaposing Chinese antique porcelain wares with American food, painting a single image larger than life against a blank background. The juxtaposition of two cultural references contrasts the differences between hard (raw) vs soft (cooked), inedible vs tasty, ancient vs modern, high vs low in a humorous way. Simultaneously, it also evokes a confrontational sensation which asks: Do the two cultures fight each other or can they merge?
My 3-D work addresses issues of how American fast and processed food is consumed by Chinese immigrants and how this consumption influences their cultural identity. I use ready-to-eat hamburger packages, cheese, and Chinese rice to make cut-out images of word installations that express their reactions to American cheese and fast food. To the older generation of Chinese immigrants, cheese is very foreign and indigestible, and they prefer Chinese rice as their comfort food. However, to the younger generation and American-born Chinese (ABC), cheese, hamburgers, and pizza are their favorite foods. In presenting the positive and negative responses, I raise the questions: Are their cultural identities changed by consuming American cheesy, buttery, sugary, and fast foods? Do they still consider themselves Chinese? Or does it really matter?
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Born and raised in northern China, Chunbo (Bo) is a painter and printmaker currently living in Chicago. Her current art practice involves with painting and installation uses food to reflect her interests in the difference and connection between Chinese and American cultures. Bo approaches her paintings in realistic and surrealistic style by juxtaposing Chinese antique porcelain wares with American food to reveal a cultural contrast between hard (raw) vs soft (cooked), inedible vs tasty, ancient vs modern, high vs low in a humorous way. Her 3-D works reflect how American fast and processed food is consumed by Chinese immigrants and how this consumption influences their cultural identity. Bo uses ready-made materials such as hamburger packages, cheese, and Chinese rice to make cut-out images of word installations that express Chinese immigrants ‘ the positive and negative response to American cheese and fast food.
Bo received her BFA in Printmaking from Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (1994) and MFA from Emest G. Welch School of Art & Design at Georgia State University in 2004. She has exhibited her works nationally and internationally at numerous venues including China National Museum of Art, Beijing, China; The 9th Shanghai Art Biennial, Shanghai, China; Hyde Park Art Center, Evanston Art Center, The Art Center Highland Park, Bridgeport Art Center and Women Made Gallery, Chicago, IL; Lightwell Gallery at University of Oklahoma, School of Art & Art History, Norman, OK; University Library Gallery at California State University, Sacramento, CA; and Whitespace Gallery, Atlanta and Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, GA. Her works are included in the public collections of Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon (Portland), College of Art & Sciences at Clayton State University (Atlanta), the Ministry of Culture of China (Beijing) and Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing). Bo is the awardee of 2019 SPARK grants given by Chicago Artists Coalition. She attended residences at Vermont Studio Center, Center Program at Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center and Poligrafa Printmaking Workshop, Barcelona, Spain.
© Chunbo Zhang