Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Jul 07, 2021 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

With a conceptual approach, Chinese-born and Oakland-based interdisciplinary artist Zhang Mengjiao, aka Jasmine’s work investigates social issues of “immigration” and explores questions pertinent to the autonomy behind being a woman of color, Chinese, artist, and human being. Her socially engaged art takes the form of photography, texts, painting, performance video, and sculptural installations. Her first solo show takes place in Los Angeles at the Kylin Gallery from June 19th-July 3rd, and she will then go on to host an exhibition in San Francisco shortly afterwards.

Her official name on her passport is Zhang Mengjiao, however she named herself ‘Jasmine’ in adaptation to the western world. In pursuit of professional art education, she attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where she earned an MFA degree with honor for her Zoom performance work entitled “I Married to Your Whole Country Babe!”, which refers to how Asian women have been fetishized, recognized as prostitutes or as VISA brides who take advantage of marriage historically. By recognizing that her art practice is a response to what is happening around her, she acknowledges that her work is a collaboration between herself and the society. Working on empowering herself and gaining autonomy as a woman of color, as Chinese who opposes to the current PRC government’s rhetoric and broadcasting, as an Asian who constantly gets microaggressions, as an individual whose privacy is being eroded in this digital age we are immersed in, as a foreigner with an unstable VISA, and also as a female figure whose images get distorted and misperceived by mass media, she has learned to consciously conform and adapt as a way of manifesting her non-compromising. This discourse can be seen in “Oh Shit!”, which is a ballot screen printed onto a toilet paper roll satirizing the fallacy of democracy and narrating the oppressed voice of immigrants in a twisted and humorous way.

Without further ado, the art and words of Jasmine Zhang...

who has the autonomy. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang
who has the autonomy

How long have you been an artist?
Since 2017. I will say my artistic creation spans from 2017’s fall/winter time. I started focusing more on making art works. I was an International Relations major in undergrad and was hesitating about what I should do with my life. Being a researcher might fit my intention and pursuits of my being, but I am more creative and not that analytical than simply reading and writing. I then started to dive into photography. So I have been an artist for 4 years.

what standard. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang
what standard
 
Is your art your full-time career?
It is a full-time career - I would respond to almost everything that I saw and I felt. These responses are transformed into different actions, then transformed into their different forms of presentation - sometimes photographs, sometimes videos, sometimes sculptures.

Where do you work? How long have you been there?
I have two studios, one is at a non-profit art gallery which is devoted to supporting emerging artists, where I mostly do sculptures. Another one is at home, where I have my big inkjet printer and my photo studio. I moved into the first studio last November. But I have had my home studio setup since I moved in last September.  

lets have a drink. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang
lets have a drink

Do you have favorite places you like to create?
I feel more comfortable at my home studio for sure, but sometimes my cats are a bit too annoying, plus I am not a very organized person. So I lose track of where I put my work stuff.
 
What does a typical day look like?  Is there a typical day?
There is a typical day :). If I’m not busy preparing for a show, I get up around 7:30 am, drink coffee, and do yoga in my living room. Then, I eat a light breakfast and have a full studio day. In between working on projects, I usually take small breaks to clean, read, and prepare myself a good dinner. Sometimes I invite friends over to hang out in the evening.

What materials do you prefer?
I do not have a specific material I like or prefer. I choose my media and forms based on the information that I want to broadcast. Media and forms are only the carriers of the context and concepts of the work, but in a good art piece, I see forms and contexts merging together. I have a soft spot for photography, but I am pretty critical about this medium at the same time.

Photos from the series We Don't Speak the Same Language:
We Don't Speak the Same Language 1. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

We Don't Speak the Same Language 2. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

We Don't Speak the Same Language 3. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

We Don't Speak the Same Language 4. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

We Don't Speak the Same Language 5. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

We Don't Speak the Same Language 6. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

We Don't Speak the Same Language 7. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

We Don't Speak the Same Language 8. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

Where/How are you inspired?
From careful observations anywhere, listening to people talk, my thinking combined with what I learn and read, then communicating and conversing with people.

How do you know when your piece is done?
I examine whether my piece is done or not in terms of if it's working or not - not only working on me but also working with my visitors and audiences. I take criticism and advice from my friends a lot. Usually I need a longer time to tell if a work is done or not compared to my audience, but my audiences can let me know their reactions to my work immediately. As an artist and as a conceptual artist, I certainly agree that my work is a collaboration and not solely work. Moreover, I believe an art piece should be working and aligned with the artist's intention, thus it can be called an art work. So I always hope to get feedback from my audiences and wait to hear if it’s done or not.

Another thing that I take care of in terms of my art practice, is the belief that the process is the art itself, so usually my work demonstrates an explicit process of the work, but I think a work in progress is work, so progress is work. So it’s only about the progress and the process, and the presentation of them. I cannot answer this question very clearly because I do not think a work can be done, but it should be always lineared and in progress.

See me as i do. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang
See me as i do

Do you work on one or more pieces at a time?
Yes I do, sometimes they are interconnected and sometimes I feel obliged to work on more than one thing at a time. Recently I have been working on one project at a time, but that project consists of smaller bits and pieces that I need to thread thoroughly.

Photos from the Flat Power series:
Flat Power 1. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

Flat Power 2. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

Flat Power 3. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

Flat Power 4. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

Flat Power 5. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

Flat Power 6. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

Flat Power 7. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

Flat Power 8. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang

If you were not an artist, what would you do?
I would be a researcher or a singer, or a dancer - but I guess musician and dancer counts towards the big artist category as well. I make art because I think it’s working effectively on people’s lives and beliefs. Otherwise, I would go for the other complete artistic approach of being a singer, making music or dancing, which is more poetic and better fit for me as a sun pisces person. :)

How can our readers find and purchase your art?
Directly through me for now:)
I have my website here which is:  mengjiaozhang.com Feel free to shoot me an email. I’d really appreciate it.

What inspired you for this upcoming exhibit?
I was a bit sentimental after the pandemic lockdown, trying to distinguish what is real and fake. Trying to figure out everything I did for the sake of my art school and photography education and what it has accomplished for me...and which direction I should formally pursue.

Erasing is part of the creating. From Artist Spotlight: Jasmine Zhang
Erasing is part of the creating

All photos courtesy and copyright Jasmine Zhang