Interview with artist Chemin Hsiao by ArtSite Program Manager, Marissa Lazar


What inspired you to apply to ArtSite?

As I’ve worked with Queens Council on the Arts for a few past projects, I really like the collaborations with QCA & venues, how each particular culture project influenced its targeted audiences, and how visitors responded to the artwork. Therefore, I always look for announcements from QCA.

Artistically, I’ve always been looking for opportunity to paint a mural because it’s such a different setting compared to small scale work I usually do in the studio. Also, as a continuation of my previous series of larger paintings, I think ArtSite provides a wonderful cause, for the piece will be about the locations and the community I live in or walk around very often.


Please discuss your connection to Queens.

Since my arrival to New York City from Taiwan to pursue my artistic career 10 years ago, I’ve always live around the area of Jackson Heights (Elmhurst, Grand Ave Station, Rego Park and Corona) because I depend on the Asian food & grocery options so much. Sometimes a warm noodle soup similar to my hometown could give me lots of strength moving forward in life. I also walk a lot in-between these areas, sometimes just for walk and get out of my studio.


Briefly describe your ArtSite project and what inspired your idea?

“My Journey to the West III: Playground” will be the 3rd piece of my large painting series “My Journey to the West,” which interwoven with an old Chinese tale about a monk going from East to West to get the essence of Buddha with the help of Monkey King and other disciples. I place myself in the position as the monk, going from Taiwan to New York City to pursue my artistic career. I combine the Asian scroll narrative painting tradition to tell a story about the environment, its people and explain to me the meaning of certain period of time in life.

 As the series is always about the locations I live and experienced, it fits perfectly with the mission of ArtSite, “to establish an ecosystem of local artists and art producers to create new work that reflects the diverse cultural stories particular to the communities of Jamaica and Jackson Heights.”

Thinking of Jackson Heights, everyone living in it surely knows it’s about the diversity of people & ethnic groups. When I think of Jackson Heights, I see different people with different cultural backgrounds, all play together in one place. There is an unspoken rule that everyone just lives together without interfering with each other’s business. I would like to portrait that in the idea of “Playground.” The narrative painting grew from a playground setting, where various animals symbolizing various ethnic groups play together with each other.  


Where will your project be exhibited and why did you choose this particular site for your ArtSite project?

The piece was painted on the exterior rolling gate & interior wall on canvas at the (former) Zaytoun Restaurant, located at 40 -13 82nd Street, Flushing, 11373. The rolling gate is visible to the public when the current pizzeria closes each evening. The interior piece could be seen during the store hours.


In my proposal stage, I visited the store for gathering information purpose and found out the location owner is very kind, supportive to art & creative projects, also, the rolling gate & interior wall space is perfect for the large narrative painting I plan to do. Therefore, it’s a perfect match.


Will ArtSite be your first public art project? What are some of the key differences between your normal practice and working in the public sphere?

Yes, ArtSite will be my 1st public art project. 

Working onsite with people passing by was such an interesting experiences. It created a different atmosphere than working in a private studio space, which I normally did. The energy of the community becomes a part of the project, and I really enjoyed the instant support from the community while working on the piece.

 The large piece allows me to work physically into the painting, compared to the small watercolor pieces onsite I usually do, it is simply rewarding to get to paint this way.

Obviously, compared to works presented in a gallery setting, public art is much more accessible for people, I found this setting very intriguing at the moment.


How do you want/envision the public to interact with your work?

When the store closes during weekend, the pedestrians could pass by the rolling gate piece, maybe stop for a moment, and have a smile to-go in their daily life.


See more of Chemin’s work!