Unveiling the Complexities: Art and Identity in Focus, Seattle-Based Multimedia Artist Jia Jia

Jia Jia received an MFA in 3D4M from the University of Washington (2021) and a BFA in Ceramics from China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (2016). She is an active member of SOIL Gallery. Her work has been exhibited locally and internationally at venues including SOIL, Root Division, 4C Gallery, Field Projects Gallery, Woman Made Gallery, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Jacob Lawrence Gallery, and Henry Art Gallery. Her work has appeared in literary journals, including Longleaf Review and Salamander. She has been artist in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Chautauqua Institution, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center and other institutions.

Surplus Value 01, Leather, thread, clay, curved Pean hemostat Forceps, shredded Oxford Dictionary pages, wood, 25 x 21 x 6 in, 2022, Photo credit: Jueqian Fang

Thank you for joining us, Jia Jia. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hello, my name is Jia Jia. I was born and raised in China, and I currently live and work in Seattle, United States. I am a multimedia artist specializing in installation, sculpture, video, and performance. Besides making art in my cozy studio, I like food and travel. My recent travel plan is to go to Mexico and start each day there with a delicious taco.  

What is your art about? How did different media influence your practice?

As a foreigner living abroad, my work is deeply rooted in the exploration of identity, adaptation, and the subtle resistance against the pressures of capitalism and the political environment. I seek to understand my place in the world as an individual and as a “product” that challenges the conventional notions of efficiency and productivity. Through my artistic practice, I strive to navigate the complexities of cultural digestion and the power dynamics that pervade our everyday lives.

Different artistic mediums require distinct processes to incorporate them into artworks. For instance, when I plan to create a sculpture, I usually start with a simple sketch and then produce numerous small samples to experiment with different materials and techniques. However, when preparing for a performance, I typically engage in extensive writing. I list all of my concepts and ensure they flow logically before I begin rehearsing several times before the actual performance. The diverse ways of making my art allow for more possibilities and approaches to my artistic practice. This approach enriches my content and helps my art evolve in significant ways.

SOIL Installation, Mixed media, Variable in dimension, 2022, Photo credit: Jueqian Fang

There is an interesting poem as “story” on your portfolio website. Is there a message you want to deliver behind this story?

The narratives I share represent my personal experiences living between China and the United States. Initially, these stories served as a soothing means for me to mentally navigate between English and Chinese. However, as I began to write more, I found that they powerfully aligned with my artist’s statement and portfolio.

Even though some grammatical inaccuracies and ambiguous word choices might create confusion for the reader, I believe that the authenticity of my ‘broken’ English mirrors my true self. It exposes my identity without concealment or pretense, particularly as I navigate life in a foreign country. The rawness of my expression underscores the sincerity of my journey.

Surplus Value 09, Leather, thread, ceramic, curved Pean hemostat Forceps, 24 x 13 x 4 in, 2023

What does “community” mean to you? How do you see yourself in a community?

The concept of “community” started to take on a deeper meaning for me amidst the pandemic. As we’re all aware, most of us faced a period of isolation during those challenging times. As a graduate student during the pandemic, I found my usual social interactions as an artist significantly reduced. Fortuitously, upon my graduation, I became part of an artist collective, and I am immensely grateful for the sense of community it restored.

Identifying the right community for myself has been pivotal. Within this nurturing environment, I feel secure in sharing my personal sentiments and drawing support from my contemporaries. Moreover, the act of extending support to others in the community has been instrumental in my own learning and personal growth.

Surplus Value 06, Leather, thread, clay, curved Pean hemostat Forceps, shredded Oxford Dictionary pages, 33 x 34 x 10 in, 2023

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I’m engaged in creating a wall series titled “Before and After Digestion”. Within this collection, I utilize recycled terra cotta clay, a material brimming with a rich cultural narrative. Hailing from China, I’ve been deeply influenced by the prominence of ceramics in my culture, where the creation of porcelain and impeccable vessels is highly esteemed.

Despite this tradition, my focus lies in exploring the innate imperfections within the clay and the profound narratives they encapsulate. Terra cotta, a cornerstone for numerous ancient civilizations across the globe, carries a color that mirrors flesh and evokes humaneness. It serves as a touching reminder of the unnamed artisans who crafted these civilizations.

Surplus Value 02, Leather, thread, ceramics, curved Pean hemostat Forceps, wood, 25 x 17 x 4 in, 2023

The interwoven and reconfigured clay form within my pieces encapsulates my re-envisioned personal experiences. It underscores my cultural heritage and influence, as well as the journey of assimilating and interpreting these aspects within an alien landscape. By employing clay as a medium, I delve into a deeply personal exploration of cultural identity and experiences, articulating them in a tangible, visual form.

Is there any advice that you would like to share with others?

Discovering a lifelong passion isn’t a simple endeavor, but maintaining the resolve to follow it can be even more challenging. I consider myself fortunate to have found a sense of fulfillment in my journey as an artist. Art not only empowers me to express my identity and encourages authenticity, but it also provides me with the means to shift perspectives when encountering life’s hurdles, preparing me to embrace any eventuality.

It implores us to exhibit courage in our life choices and to extend generosity towards ourselves.

Redefine, Clay, curved Pean hemostat Forceps, shredded Oxford Dictionary pages, 8 x 18 x 6 in, 2022, Photo credit: Jueqian Fang

text & photo courtesy of Jia Jia

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