Wanxin Zhang

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Wanxin Zhang



I believe that “revitalization” of artistic concepts through the past, present, and future is a very challenging task. Regardless of the cultural implications, space, and time between these acts of recreation, one must also keep in mind that art is not the only motivation behind them. More importantly, the spirit and content of today’s society is the true source of these attempts.
 
I grew up during an extremely chaotic time in China, during the turbulent years of the 1960’s and 1970’s, when politics was more than just propaganda. The brainwashing of the people to believe that Chairman Mao was their one and only leader, and almost a deity figure, was strong and deterred. Thus, when I visited the Terra Cotta Warriors of the Qin excavations – I immediately saw the similarities between these two societies. The feudal society of the Qin Empire demanded absolute obedience and submission to the King, an idea clearly reflected by the hordes of warriors in the pits. Yet thousands of years later, in modern China, this same oppression of the people is still alive and strong. It was that moment that I had the immediate inspiration to recreate these warriors and through an artist perspective.
 
After arriving in the United States many years ago, I was presented with an environment to voice my ideas and thoughts through my art. For someone with my background, this privilege is invaluable. With my new surroundings, including my connection to Christianity, influence from famous Bay Area funk artists, and the contemporary American art society, this became the perfect birthplace for my attempt to re-conceptualize the warriors’ lives. I planned to take this serious subject matter on with a sense of humor. It was during this experience that I truly realized the challenge behind this attempt. Not only have I been able to constantly test the limits of clay, I have also been able to push myself to see how I can truly incorporate my purpose, inspirations, and critiques to reflect this contemporary message. My art now is not just a resurrection of the appearances of the original warriors, but also include in them a new sense of spirit and meaning. After all, the Qin Terra Cotta warriors are history to us now, but my warriors could be history to generations after us.