Lin Fei Fei (who writes her name in the Chinese tradition of family name first) knew she wanted to be an artist by the time she was six years old. “I wasn’t a very studious kid and often found myself up to no good and causing mischief in the classroom for my teachers and classmates.” By high school, she realized she did not want to go to traditional college and have a traditional career. “From that moment, I decided to work as hard as I could to earn my Bachelor’s degree and Master’s Degree in Oil Painting at LuXun Academy of Fine Arts.”
Her hard work paid off and she graduated in 2014, first in her class with a scholarship to study abroad in Italy. “[W]orking hard and going to art school was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I met so many outstanding professors and artists along the way and it has influenced my career and made me the person and artist that I am today.”
After spending a month and a half residency in Italy, the Chinese artist returned to Shenyang to develop her own studio, called Fly-ArtSpace. “The concept was to create an art studio and class that could cater to all levels of artist and art enthusiasts. I worked tirelessly and with the help of my friends, I built the studio from nothing. My first class began with five people in a coffee shop and eventually we had thousands of people coming week after week.” Lin would teach art practice and appreciation while they all drank coffee and had fun.
Though she “really enjoyed the experience,” Lin turned it over to her cousin when she and her then-boyfriend (and eventual husband) decided to start a new chapter in a new country. “We chose to move to California because it’s warmer and would be a new fresh start for both of us, it’s not home for either of us but it was a compromise. While it has been a challenging transition, I’m really glad that we chose California for our first stop. I love the atmosphere and diverse culture here.”
When Lin first moved to the US, she did not know anyone and to remedy that, made an effort meet fellow artists. She was soon introduced to Gabriel Sanford and they became fast friends. Through Sanford, she met many of the other artists in the Sacramento art community. Lin “began to think about putting on a show that could merge the two cultures of America and China. It ha[d] always been my dream to put on a show like this and I [thought] it will be an excellent opportunity for so many of these artists to get international exposure.”
Inspired by the autobiography of Peggy Guggenheim to try to help her fellow artists, Lin began to put the gears in motion for what would become the East Meets West Exhibit. Having shown her work many times at the Jolie Gallery in Shenyang, Lin called upon the executive curator, Ye Qing with whom she was friendly. Lin told her about her idea and they decided to make it both an exhibition and annual event. The show will begin with Sacramento artists with plans to expand to other cities in the future. “Ye Qing and I have worked so hard on this exhibition and we’re so excited to host this event together as we support artists worldwide,” says Lin.
Lin sees “a lot of similarities and differences between the Eastern and Western World cultures.” She got her first taste of Western culture and life when she first traveled outside of China in 2013 on a visit to Norway. Around that time, she began dating her now-husband, an American. “I began to feel myself changing. My values have remained the same but small details of each culture have continued to permeate my artwork. I’m still the same artist I always have been, yet I have a much more open mind and different perspectives on life that allow me to free myself and be even more creative, free, and daring with my work.” Traveling around the world and meeting people with many different points of view has taught her to “stay hungry and stay young.”
The exhibit will feature artists Lin met through her contacts in Sacramento and social media. “Just like the story of how Sacramento became a large town because of the Gold Rush, … I feel like I have come here and mined some of the best gold from these artists that we can show in China to help them spread the word about their art while also bringing two cultures of artists and art appreciators together.” The pieces are from all different mediums in order to create as diverse a show as possible. Nearly twenty Sacramento artists including Andy Cunningham, Franceska Julianna, Gabriel Sanford, Jeff Musser, Jesse Vasquez, Jessica Wabbit Burke, and Shaun Burner will be sending their work with Lin to China.
Lin will be returning to China with the chosen works but does not plan to stay beyond spending a few months visiting friends and family she hasn’t seen in a year. Then she and her husband will return to Sacramento where they both work. “We haven’t ‘settled down’ anywhere yet so who knows? I met my husband in China so maybe one day we will move back.”
In addition to the East Meets West Exhibit, which opens July 1st in Shenyang, Lin has three more shows this summer: two in Sacramento and a third in China. The first Window Seat, a group show, is already running at Urban Hive (1931 H St.) and will be there until June 26th. The second 62 Hues, also a group show, opens on June 2nd from 6 to 10 pm. at the 1810 Gallery (1810 12th St.). Once in China she will have an additional show at Today Art Museum in Beijing starting June 4th.
Lin wants to thank “anyone who is reading this who has helped me or any other artists in Sacramento. When I first came here I didn’t know anyone and the community here has been so warm and kind and it made the tough transition of moving around the world to a foreign land so much easier. It just feels so good to be around good people who look out for each other. I can honestly say I’m so proud to be a part of this community.”
Words: Katta Hules.
Photos courtesy of Lin Fei Fei.