In my jewelry series, Chinese Cowboy, I reimagine traditional Western accessories featuring designs that are distinctly not Western. I created the pieces as a tribute to the pageantry and myth of the American Cowboy and to ancient and contemporary Chinese legends, combining both aesthetically and thematically. I am interested in how the jewelry of the Wild West came to be seen as so quintessentially white and monolithic, despite being intertwined with and heavily influenced by non-white cultures.
The creation of this series was a solidification of a dual identity that I create from old and new canons expanding on my investigation of identity, and interest in storytelling, cultural exchange, and connection.
Self Portraits, 2020
At the height of the pandemic, Asian Americans experienced a record spike in recorded hate crimes. I became hyperaware of my race at this time and created this series in quarantine as an attempt to satirize and reclaim the ways perception has influenced how I see and interact with my body, gender, and appearance. Each image is paired with a snippet of conversation I've had between the ages of 13 and 23.
“But where are your parents from?” “Texas.” “Wait, really?”
”Do you ever miss your birth parents?” “I never knew them.” “Oh. That’s cool though.”
“Omg you have chink eyes.” “Dude, they’re just my eyes.”
”You’re not really Chinese though, you’re American.”
“You remind me of my Chinese ex-wife.”
“My Vietnamese friend owns a nail salon, do you know her?”
“My last girlfriend was Asian, but she had lighter skin than you.”
“I’m into Asian girls. But not in a weird way. I just like anime…”
“Hey, do you speak Chinese?” “A bit.” “Say something.”
“But how does [adoption] work?” “I’m American, but I’m also Chinese.” “So you’re basically white, right?”
“How can I be racist against Asians if I wanna make out with you?”
“Y’all brought Covid here.” “I’ve actually lived in Texas for 20 years.” “Oh, well your people did.”
March 13-27, 2019
Zoë Watts builds large-scale structures that examine identity, intersectionality, and race in America through the combined use of Western and traditional Chinese aesthetic elements. Through a series of interviews, personal experiences, and photographs, she collects an accumulation of perspectives in order to visualize how an individual can be a part of a culture by definition, but feel significantly separated from it.
Reception Thursday, March 14 2019 from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. with artists’ talks beginning at 5:00 p.m.
In Lost In..., I look at my experiences in China; examining aspects of Chinese art and culture that have represented or been a stepping off point for my identity.
In 平衡, I use photographs taken at assorted sites around Austin that reflect aspects of Chinese American life and how I fit, or fail to fit, into them. I us a linear structure to show how unfolding my identity is the only way for me to be able to write myself into the narrative.
In 榆娟, I highlight images of myself strictly how others perceive me. I asked friends to tell me what to wear, how to pose, and what expressions to make. This piece is guarded by a pair of lions, 石狮, which are glazed in blue and white.
Cloud forms, based on the patterns in Chinese silk brocade, are thematically understood to be a place between the heavens and earth, associated with change. The suspended forms cast shadows that move over and through the space, interacting with both the sculptures and the viewer.