May You Live 10,000 Years
I am intrigued by the omnipresence of symbols and the way they produce meaning in contemporary society. This work stems from my recent interest in Chinese propaganda posters produced during the late 20th century. I had been making small prints and thinking about the role that traditionally figurative sculpture plays in art history, and I began thinking about how these figures and other decorative elements in the posters would be contextualized outside of China.
For this specific work, I was inspired by a poster depicting a group of primary school kids playing band, lighting lanterns, and holding a giant peach to wish chairman Mao a long life. In the poster, Chairman Mao represents communist power in China. I was impressed by the unrealistic size of the peach, which is bigger than the kid. I made the girl into a statue and altered the image by building her head into the giant peach to create a physical relationship between the audience and the sculpture. On the one hand, the girl is grotesque and faceless, so the audience cannot identify her. But on the other hand, the peach could be her face or could be something coming out of her heart and going back to her head. This reminds me of those workers who dress up as cartoon characters and take pictures with tourists on the streets in NYC or Disneyland. In Chinese culture, the peach represents vitality and longevity. However, it could also be read as a body part and representation of femininity in other circumstances. Regarding idioms, in Chinese, we call someone who enjoys bragging about others as “Pai Ma Pi” (slapping a horse’s butt), which translates, in English, as sucking up to someone.