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Interview: Polin Huang

"Share is caring, let’s be princess together," 2022

Acrylic on canvas, glitter, oil pastel


1. Could you introduce yourself? Where are you from, and where did you go to school to study art? When did you first acquire an interest in art and painting?

I was born in Taipei, Taiwan in 1995. Currently I work as a painter specializing in media. I am based in New York City. My artwork focuses on addressing issues such, as stereotyping women, racism and the overwhelming impact of advertising media, language and local culture. Through my art I delve into the mindset of today’s youth who often grapple with uncertainty or passionately pursue philosophies. To convey these ideas, I create characters adorned with vivid colors and playful yet satirical elements. In terms of my educational background I completed my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree at the Schools of Visual Arts. Obtained my Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from Taipei National University of Art. Over time I have been fortunate to exhibit my artwork in exhibitions.

Since my childhood, I have harbored a deep passion for drawing, which led me to pursue professional art education from high school through university. As I reflect upon my journey, I find myself contemplating the significance of various elements in art: technique, color, and creative ideas. My perspective has been greatly shaped by the influence of my young students. As a result, I have come to believe that the pinnacle of artistic creation lies in the sincere expression of honesty and emotion. This realization prompted me to relinquish the pursuit of realistic techniques and embark on an exploration of how to capture the raw authenticity of a child’s perspective in my paintings.

2) Could you talk about your graduate program at SVA? How was it? Who were some of your favorite mentors and peers? What were the positives and the negatives?

I am really happy that I was a part of the MFA program in SVA, it featured experienced and accomplished faculty members and provided valuable guidance and mentorship to students. Building strong relationships with mentors can be one of the most rewarding aspects of it.

"Chicks and chick, Cow and cowgirl," 2023

Oil pastel, Acrylic on canvas, 40”x30”

3) Why did you choose stylized, figurative painting as your main vehicle of expression and exploration of ideas?

I made a deliberate and personal choice to use stylized, figurative painting as my main artistic medium for expressing and exploring ideas. This decision enables me to communicate my thoughts and emotions in a visually captivating way. Stylized, figurative painting provides me with a versatile range of tools to infuse my ideas and stories into the artwork. It allows me to simplify complex concepts into visual forms that are approachable and captivating for a broad audience.

The use of stylization enables me to emphasize certain aspects of the human form, allowing me to create a unique visual language that complements the themes I want to explore. The human figure holds great symbolism in art, capable of expressing a wide range of emotions and experiences. By working within this framework, I can delve into topics such as identity, culture, gender, and society with depth and nuance that aligns with my artistic vision. Ultimately, my choice to focus on stylized figurative painting as my primary form of expression encourages a dialogue between viewers and artwork. It invites them to interpret and connect with the ideas and stories I aim to convey in a visually captivating and emotionally meaningful manner.

"Threesomegirl," 2023

Glitter, oil pastel, Acrylic on canvas


4) What are the main ideas that you want to pursue as an artist? If you could sum up your artistic practice to 50 words, what would you say?

In my artistic journey, I am committed to relentless growth and innovation, aspiring to be recognized as a significant force in the art world. My aim is to create compelling, thought-provoking art that resonates with audiences, fosters dialogue, and leaves an enduring imprint on the cultural landscape.

5) I read that your paintings criticize the social expectations and stereotypes of women. Could you detail what those expectations and stereotypes might be?

For me, color serves as a powerful means of emotional expression. Within the spectrum of colors, pink occupies a unique place, bearing a multitude of societal associations. Traditionally, pink has symbolized femininity and has been closely linked to concepts of gentleness, romance, and charm. Nevertheless, contemporary perceptions have expanded its connotations to encompass a wider, and occasionally less favorable, range, associating it with notions of shallowness, immaturity, vulgarity, and an excess of sentimentality. Beneath the subtle yet pervasive currents of societal expectations, a phenomenon known as "pink shame" has emerged, primarily among adolescent girls and young women. This phenomenon reflects a prevalent bias against the color pink, driven by the perception that it excessively embodies girlishness. Consequently, individuals may adopt more gender-neutral or conventionally masculine attire as a defense mechanism, distancing themselves from anything that might be perceived as overly sentimental or weak, often associated with the label of "girlishness." In truth, it's not that many girls inherently dislike the color pink; rather, they harbor apprehensions about being stigmatized or subjected to societal scrutiny. In contemporary society,

women, as a social gender, often bear a weighty burden of societal expectations. It’s not the color pink itself that garners disdain; rather, it is the stereotypes and preconceived judgments erroneously tied to it that elicit such reactions.

"Swan goddess," 2023

Acrylic, oil pastel on canvas 24”x24”

6) But don’t you also indulge in some of the expectations and stereotypes of women yourself? For example, you might put on glitter and makeup to look and feel beautiful, or you might wear revealing clothing to make an attractive fashion statement. Do you acknowledge that you yourself feel attraction or seduction to some of the social expectations and stereotypes, or am I misinterpreting the situation?

In my artwork, I often employ elements such as clothing, and stylized imagery to challenge and subvert societal expectations and stereotypes related to gender and identity. These artistic choices serve as a form of commentary on the intricate and often contradictory facets of our individual and collective identities within societal norms. Additionally, I may use elements associated with attraction or seduction to draw viewers into my work, sparking a meaningful dialogue about how these concepts are constructed and experienced in our society. It’s essential to recognize that my intention isn’t to endorse or indulge in stereotypes but rather to utilize them as tools for engaging with and deconstructing societal expectations. Ultimately, my art invites viewers to approach it with an open mind, encouraging them to consider the complex interplay between societal norms and personal identity. Art serves as a medium through which we can explore and question the multifaceted nature of human experience and how society shapes our perceptions of gender, beauty, and identity.

"Hulahulahula hoop," 2023

Oil pastel and acrylic on canvas 24”x24”

7) Can an artist be contradictory in how they critically examine and construct their ideas? Would the contradictions make the artist more interesting, or would it sabotage and doom their project as an artist?

Contradictions are a prevalent and captivating aspect of an artist’s work, a canvas where the interplay of opposing ideas, emotions, and influences breathes life into creativity. These complexities enrich the artistic output, adding depth and richness. For me, art assumes a role far beyond mere expression; it’s a guiding light for individuals seeking to navigate life’s challenges. My personal journey begins in Taiwan during my formative years, a period marked by a relentless tug-of-war between two opposing ideals. Family dynamics and the enduring values of Taiwanese society orchestrated this internal struggle. In response, I embarked on a transformative journey, a quest to reconcile the principles of contemporary feminism with the enduring grip of East Asian conservative norms. This reconciliation found its voice in my artistic expressions, where symbolic techniques became my means to encode everyday experiences and subtle sexual innuendos into my works. Over time, the conservative culture deeply ingrained by my East Asian upbringing gradually receded from my life’s narrative. It was in this shift that the issues that had once burdened me began to find resolution, signifying the dawn of a new chapter in both my life and artistic creation. Fast forward to my arrival in New York in 2021, where a revelation awaited. The family conflicts and societal attitudes that had once haunted me were conspicuously absent in this new environment. This revelation prompted an introspective exploration, one that left me adrift without a clear creative direction. In response, I chose to clear my mind, immersing myself in the whimsical realm of creation. I relentlessly probed the profound challenges that life presented and sought to unearth the elements that held utmost significance in the present moment. From this pivotal juncture, my artistic focus shifted to the vibrant tapestry of my current life experiences. I began to humorously capture the intriguing moments and culture shocks encountered along the way through my artistic endeavors. The beauty of contradictions in art lies in their capacity to render an artist’s work all the more captivating and relatable. They beckon viewers to embark on a profound exploration of the art, inciting questions and conversations about the intricate dimensions of the human experience. These contradictions, far from being hindrances, act as a testament to the artist’s authenticity and their willingness to confront and embrace life’s inherent paradoxes. Ultimately, contradictions in art are not mere obstacles; they are an integral facet of artistic expression. They serve to enrich an artist’s work, rendering it more thought-provoking and resonant. The act of embracing contradictions allows artists to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of creativity and the complex world that surrounds them.

"I will handle your cake”, 2022

Acrylic on canvas, glitter, oil pastel


8) Your color application can be flat (meaning that they lack or deny the information regarding the spatial depth and temperature that color is able to describe) - especially for many of your smaller paintings. Do you acknowledge this quality in your smaller paintings? If yes, do you think this flatness is a problem? Or do you embrace the flat colors too? Or do you disagree with my observation, and, if so, why?

Your observation about the potential flatness in some of my smaller paintings is perceptive. In art, the use of color can indeed vary in terms of how it conveys spatial depth and temperature. In smaller works, I may choose to emphasize certain aspects of flatness for artistic reasons. It’s all about the intention behind the artwork and the message I aim to convey. Embracing flat colors can be a deliberate stylistic choice. It can create a unique visual impact, drawing the viewer’s attention to other elements like composition, symbolism, or the emotional resonance of the colors themselves. This approach can work exceptionally well when I want to simplify and distill a particular message or feeling. However, it’s important to note that this flatness isn’t a problem per se. It’s just one of many tools in an artist’s palette. Artistic expression is diverse, and the choice to embrace flat colors or not depends on the context and objectives of a specific piece. Some paintings may benefit from depth and temperature conveyed through color, while others may thrive on the simplicity and boldness of flat colors. In essence, I see your observation as valid and reflective of the nuances of artistic decision-making. It’s all part of the ongoing exploration and experimentation that drives my creative process.

"Dad, I got a mixed girlfriend," 2023

Glitter, oil pastel, Acrylic on canvas


9) Is it the spiritual intent of your art to liberate Northeast Asian women such as yourself from the strict, traditional expectations that people have for women in their cultures? Is this why you are depicting them as scantily clothed and/or sexually liberated or expressive?\

While my art does touch upon themes related to the liberation of women in Northeast Asian cultures from traditional expectations, it’s important to clarify that my choice to depict them in scantily clothed or sexually liberated and expressive forms isn’t necessarily a direct response to those expectations. Rather, it’s a reflection of my personal artistic expression and a deliberate effort to assert my preferences without shame. In many ways, art serves as a platform for personal expression and freedom. It allows individuals to convey their thoughts, feelings, and desires without being bound by societal norms or expectations. In my case, the choice to portray individuals in such forms is a reflection of my own artistic vision and a means of embracing my own preferences and desires without hesitation. While my work may intersect with broader themes related to gender expectations and cultural norms, it’s important to understand that art is a multifaceted medium, and artists draw inspiration from a myriad of sources, both personal and societal, to create their unique expressions. In essence, my art is a celebration of personal freedom and a declaration of my artistic preferences, unburdened by external judgment or constraints. In the realm of human preferences, the affinity for the color pink mirrors the complexities surrounding societal norms and moral standards related to sexuality. Within a predominantly male-dominated society, traditional gender roles tend to prescribe expressive and emotionally supportive roles for women, while men are often expected to assume instrumental and practical positions. In this context, women often find themselves subjected to a higher degree of conformity and a narrower margin for tolerance in adhering to traditional gender roles compared to their male counterparts.

The conservative and traditional milieu prevalent in East Asian societies frequently fosters a self-deprecating attitude among women during interpersonal interactions, and a sense of shame when it comes to self-expression. It's important to recognize that pink is, in its essence, an ordinary color, devoid of the weight of societal definitions. Similarly, gender is fundamentally a physical characteristic, and no individual should feel compelled to judge themselves based on external standards. Each of us has the liberty to define our own identity, free from the confines of societal expectations.

"Cowgirl," 2023

Oil pastel, Acrylic on canvas


10) What is the fine line between sexual liberation and “excess” or “promiscuity” for women? Or is there no such a boundary? Or is such a boundary negotiated on a case-by case-basis between the individual desire and the social expectations? Do your paintings comment on this issue as well, and, if so, how do they reflect your position as a woman and artist?

The concept of a fine line between sexual liberation and “excess” or “promiscuity” for women is highly subjective and often influenced by societal norms, cultural values, and individual beliefs. There is no universal boundary that applies to all women, as notions of sexual liberation vary widely. Instead, the boundary is often negotiated on a case-by- case basis between individual desires and social expectations. This negotiation can be complex and deeply personal, with each person defining their own boundaries and comfort zones when it comes to their sexuality. What one person considers liberating may be seen as excessive by another, and vice versa. In my paintings, I do explore themes related to gender, identity, and societal expectations, including those pertaining to sexuality. However, my art does not aim to provide definitive answers or solutions to these complex issues. Instead, it serves as a platform for dialogue and reflection. As a woman and artist, my position is one of empathy and understanding. I recognize that each person’s journey towards sexual liberation is unique, and I respect the choices individuals make in this regard. My art seeks to challenge stereotypes, question societal norms, and encourage viewers to think critically about these issues. Ultimately, I believe in the importance of empowering individuals to make informed and consensual choices about their bodies and their sexuality, free from judgment and stigma.

11) What are your goals and dreams for the future? Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

My long-term vision is to cultivate and refine my artistic talents continually, with the ultimate goal of achieving greatness in the realm of art. I envision a future where my work resonates deeply with audiences, transcending boundaries and inspiring meaningful conversations about creativity, culture, and human experience. Through dedication, exploration, and unwavering commitment to my craft, I aim to forge a legacy as a renowned artist whose work leaves an indelible mark on the art world, enriching the lives of those who encounter.

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