By Amy Chua The following story appears in the February 2017 issue of The Washington Post Magazine.
Art Nouveau artist Amy Chuei has spent her career exploring the aesthetic, social and psychological dimensions of art.
She was the first Asian-American woman to be selected to win the prestigious Lippincott Medal for Visual Art in 2008, and is now a founding director at the Asian Pacific American Museum in New York.
But as the Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in her community struggle with rising inequality, Chueis recent work on the theme “Culturally Responsible Oil Painting” explores a broader question: how to use art to build bridges among cultures.
“Cultural resistance is one of the most potent and enduring ways of challenging power,” Chue says.
“It’s not a simple, one-size-fits-all, one time thing.
It’s a daily struggle.
There’s a long history of artists in art who have resisted being pigeonholed as outsiders.
They’ve always been artists in other forms.
They just haven’t done it like this.”
Chue’s oil paintings are “invisible,” she says, “they’re invisible because they’re not on the walls.”
That’s because Chue has never painted in oil.
“I started painting with water, which is the easiest and cheapest way to make water art,” she explains.
“But water is not the right medium to paint with.
I have always been interested in doing this on paper and then on canvas.”
The artist first discovered her love for water painting in 2003, when she was a student at the University of California, Los Angeles.
She began experimenting with the idea of creating oil paintings in the classroom as part of a class project with two other Asian-Pacific American artists.
After several attempts, she finally succeeded in creating a three-dimensional painting with a series of water-based acrylics.
She calls her paintings “invisibles.”
“I want to create a visual language that allows you to communicate what you want to communicate, without saying it,” she tells The Post.
“The most effective medium for that is water.
You can use any kind of material that is available.”
In 2006, she became the first person of color to win a Lippecott Medal, a prestigious American art prize, for her work on watercolor oil paintings.
In 2015, Chui received the Lippen Award from the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 2016, Chua moved from Lippe to the L’Aquila Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where she is a founding member of the art collective Sari.
In her new book, “Culture Responsible,” Chua tells The Washington State Times that she believes art and resistance are intertwined.
“In many ways, water is the key to understanding our world,” she writes.
“There are a lot of stories and people who say, ‘Well, I have to make a living, I can’t do anything with my body.
I can only do things that are connected to water.’
And that is the point where I say, you can make art in water, but it’s not art.
It needs to be a bridge.”
Chua’s work is a blend of oils and acrylics, but she says it’s important to avoid the use of a single pigment.
“If you use a single oil, it can be used to paint a large part of the canvas, and it can also be used as a base for the painting on the canvas,” she notes.
“And when it’s used on the painting, the paint will stick to the water and the oil.
But the water will not stick to it.”
Chui says she’s also concerned about the negative impact of oil paints on the environment.
“We use it to paint surfaces and then we use it as an additive to paint other surfaces, which can also cause harm,” she told The Washington States Times.
“So the whole point of painting is to make the canvas and the surface and the environment look good together.”
While Chue paints in acrylics and oil, she says that her oil paintings take on a more organic quality.
“My work is made from organic materials,” she said.
“Because I’m an artist and I’m trying to create something that feels organic, and not something that is chemically made.”
To create the paintings, Chu’s technique involves a series, each consisting of five different oils.
The process is repeated until the finished oil is blended in with the canvas.
In one of her recent paintings, a portrait of former President Barack Obama, Chai creates a deep, warm yellow color, which she uses as the base for a series that incorporates a white base.
“When you put this white on the water, it really adds depth to the painting,” she explained.
“Also, it’s a nice, soft, organic brown, so it’s nice and neutral.”
In addition to painting in acrylic, Chuo