In the Painting + Printmaking program, three young artists are drawing from their own personal narratives to investigate how heritage, culture and environment guide their lives. Claudia Vincent, LaRissa Rogers and Zifan Wang each create striking images on canvas and paper that in turn confront the power dynamics of gender, the biracial experience, and the social repercussions of crime.
Claudia Vincent has focused her senior work on what she describes as the “intergenerational traumas that women share with each other.” Her oil paintings map landscapes both geographic and biological that can be sources or recipients of trauma passed down over time.
“My area of focus with this theme has found itself in Italy,” Vincent says, “because that is the terrain of my mother’s lineage and a place of sensitive history in her family. I have paired this atmosphere with landscapes of imagined representations of my own innards, using my inner abdomen as its own location as a storage for trauma that has been carried through my body, as well as through the women before me. Piling layers of oil paint on top of each other to create finalized renderings of anatomically incorrect organs reinforce this theme of accumulated layers of abject experiences of womanhood.”
During art school, Vincent has been inspired by feminist literature and the art of Ana Mendieta, Doreen Garner, Marcel Dumas, Käthe Kollwitz and Jenny Saville. Her artistic approach has transformed over the years; she found that bridging new ideas with her personal experience allowed her to translate abstract concepts into brushstrokes.
“I have found a way to visually convey these ideas best through growing on concepts and expanding on them,” she says. “Sometimes I repeat certain visual effects to make through lines in my practice that mimic the through lines I’m discussing conceptually.”
LaRissa Rogers deconstructs her identity as a biracial woman by creating personas that embody the tension between how she sees herself and what society expects of her.
“Being African-American and Korean has created a two-ness,” Rogers says, “that is always conflicting and pulling at one another for cultural recognition and unified understanding. What does it mean to be black, brown, Asian and a woman in today’s society? My work intends to challenge these questions in relation to home, heritage, exile, culture, gender, race and color politics through the use of media, installation work, objects and costume.”
In her prints, she engages identity politics through photography that recalls the familiar visual language of advertising and incorporates audio captured from conversations at home. During her studies at VCUarts, creating art became a process of self-discovery as she worked to confront biases and stereotypes and reveal the nuance of black and biracial experiences.
“I didn’t grow up learning about either of my cultures,” Rogers says. “College and art school became the place for me to understand and explore who I was and that began taking form in sculpture and performance classes freshman year. Over the years, as I learned more about my culture and came to understand and be comfortable with who I am as an Afro-Asian artist, I felt more comfortable exploring personal themes that have affected me.”
Rogers is also majoring in fashion merchandising with an interest in international fashion buying, and has dual minors in art history and business. These disciplines, she says, along with the work of artists like Cindy Sherman and Kara Walker, inspired her to use photography, objects and performance in her practice.
Zifan Wang investigates the service industry crimes occurring in China, and asks who or which institution is responsible for these tragic events. When someone becomes a victim of violence after using a ride-sharing service, who is at fault? How does the public respond to these crimes, and how can they take action to prevent them? Wang believes that artists have the power to lead these crucial conversations.
“As an art student who receives energy from, and is rooted deeply in, my unique cultural background and social environment,” she says, “I look at myself carefully to see the role I play in my society. I observe society through social events or personal experiences and perspectives. Then I keep thinking and asking myself, ‘What could I do to point out the problems I’m observing in my society and demonstrate the serious concerns people have?’”
Wang discovered the social justice potential of her work at VCUarts when she was challenged by painting faculty to critically evaluate the relationship between herself and her aesthetic concepts, which materials she chooses, and how audiences interact with her art. As she learned more about art history, gender, race and culture, she began to form a new artistic identity. She also drew inspiration from the bold creative outspokenness of young Beijing-based artist Zhang Zipaio.
“When my artworks face the public,” Wang says, “I become one of the culture producers. I am responsible for every piece of information in my artwork. I should consider more and keep asking myself, ‘Why do I want to do this? Is my concept cohesive to my life?’ VCUarts encourages students to talk to themselves and understand themselves more.”
Lead image (left to right): Claudia Vincent, LaRissa Rogers and Zifan Wang.