Thursday Spotlight: Chinese Artist Qieer Wang Portrays Mental Illness and More in Her Art

Qieer Wang showing off one of her recently framed works.

Local artist Qieer Wang’s work is incredibly diverse. She dabbles in multimedia, illustrations, film and more, having contributed to the likes of NPR and LennyLetter. We caught up with the Greenpoint illustrator to discuss creating portraits of mental illness, balancing projects, and the limitations of working on a visa.

Greenpointers: Do you live in Brooklyn, and if so for how long?

Qieer Wang: Yes, I’ve lived and worked in Greenpoint for almost two years.

GP: Can you talk about your artistic background, or education, and your influences?

QW: I was educated in illustration for both undergrad and grad school programs. As to being an animator and director, I was inspired from a grad school two-day stop motion workshop in 2015. Afterwards, I started learning techniques and animation principles from online tutorials up until today. I’m drawn to artists like Jan Svankmajer, Hieronymus Bosch, and Lorenzo Mattotti.

GP: You’ve done some illustrations for Lenny Letter and NPR, among others. For aspiring artists who perhaps don’t know how to establish these kinds of connections, what advice might you offer?

QW: Don’t hesitate to reach out to others in your industry, whether talented peers who you admire or great art directors who you’d like to work with. Be nice and be honest; it’s your obligation to keep your industry professional and healthy.

Wang’s contribution to LennyLetter.com

GP: Do you have any upcoming shows?

QW: I have two group exhibitions that are still up, one is a white board drawing with Melted City 4 and it’s up with YUI Gallery, NYC; the other one is a mental health theme-based group show in Gallery CA x Waller Gallery, Baltimore. I have three animation shorts up there with them. I will also be part of a film screening that is coming up on 7.26, Visual Delicacies, Caveat, NYC.

GP: Your drawing of the falling cello for Lenny Letter article about a panic-stricken musician seems to meld your interests of visual art and exploring themes of mental illness. Can you discuss how this overlap informs your work?

QW: It seems natural for me to analyze and visualize emotions and feelings, and I realized it as soon as I started exploring mental health. I take human figures as containers, vessels formed by waves of energy and emotions. Somehow, the abstraction of my work matches with the mental theme. And I guess, my independent work is sort of calling for the same type of assignments. The more I put effort into practice, the better I get to know my creative patterns, which can help me build up my creative voice.

GP: You also work in multimedia and filmic arts. Can you talk about that balance and how the various mediums help nourish one another?

QW: Multimedia definitely broadens up my mind on creative strategies and paths. Same with filmic arts. If you consider my drawing as a flat-layer solution, multimedia provides me with dimensional thinking, which is extremely exciting to me. While getting back to single-layer situations, its influence resonates. 

GP: Is there anything you’d like to say about working as a woman in the arts, or any specific question you wish someone would ask you?

QW: I had a great time working freelance as a female artist. I’ve been getting jobs and having great critiques through email, and the whole process is very simple and straightforward. However, I had some unpleasant experiences as a female artist when applying for jobs from companies and start-ups. I rarely talk about gender, even in my personal work. But if I had to say something, it should be that most female artists are looking for a professional working environment to stay creative, not some sort of role play under business politics. 

GP: Anything else you’d like to discuss?

QW: Furthermore, I’d like to talk about some situations that one can only suffer being a Chinese artist. I guess very few people would notice that there’s a certain point of discrimination and racism in non-immigration policies to Chinese artists. I’m very lucky to get my artist visa (O1) recently, and unluckily I have to suffer this situation because I am a Chinese: Artist visas to China are single entry, which means you’d either stay in the US for three year straight, or every time after you travel overseas, you have to apply for a $199 embassy interview to get back. The process is so time-consuming that I had to give up on more than five film festival visits because of it. 

About Billy McEntee

Billy McEntee has been fortunate to work for arts non-profits in Boston, Denver, Berkeley, and now New York. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn Magazine, Indiewire, HowlRound, Eclectica Magazine, and others. He's usually getting wine at Dandelion or eating cookies at Archestratus.

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