Thursday, August 6, 2009

Out Today: O Zhang Q&A

The Vancouver Art Gallery has just kicked off a new public art space, and the first exhibitor is Chinese-born, New York-based artist O Zhang. Zhang has done some pretty interesting projects around Chinese identity in an increasingly globalized era—her pics of kids sporting Chinglish tees and her portraits of Chinese girls and their adoptive American fathers are very interesting. In Vancouver, she's showing a 2004 series of portraits of young rural girls, now blown up to billboard size. I got a chance to chat with her by phone this week, and the National Post ran our condensed convo today. Here's an excerpt.

Q Why did you photograph these children?

A First, they're from a small village in China near where I grew up, and they're all girls, so I can identify with them. Also, they're among the most powerless group in China, and my work has always been about paying attention to people who have no power. But I also wanted to bring out the power in them, to show them as larger than life. Many of these girls had never seen a camera before, and I was looking for this moment when innocent children come face-to-face with the outside world -- that first encounter is very powerful.

What I didn't manage to shoehorn into the interview was some info on Zhang's latest work, a project with the Queens Museum in New York. For it, she's focusing more on migration in general, collaborating with first-generation American teens to create a kind of mini World's Fair.

Image of O Zhang's Horizon (detail) from CRG Gallery

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