With a conceptual approach, Chinese-born and Oakland-based interdisciplinary artist Zhang Mengjiao, aka Jasmine’s work investigates social issues of “immigration” and explores questions pertinent to the autonomy behind being a woman of colour, Chinese, artist and human being. Her socially engaged art takes the form of photography, texts, painting, performance video, and sculptural installations. Her first solo show takes place in Los Angeles at the Kylin Gallery (8634 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA, 90211) from June 18th-July 2nd, and she will then go on to host an exhibition in San Francisco shortly afterwards.
Her official name on her passport is Zhang Mengjiao, however, she named herself ‘Jasmine’ in adaptation to the western world. In pursuit of professional art education, she attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where she earned an MFA degree with honour for her Zoom performance work entitled “I Married to Your Whole Country Babe!”, which refers to how Asian women have been fetishized, recognized as prostitutes or as VISA brides who take advantage of marriage historically. By recognizing that her art practice is a response to what is happening around her, she acknowledges that her work is a collaboration between herself and society. Working on empowering herself and gaining autonomy as a woman of colour, as Chinese who opposes the current PRC government’s rhetoric and broadcasting, as an Asian who constantly gets microaggressions, as an individual whose privacy is being eroded in this digital age we are immersed in, as a foreigner with an unstable VISA, and also as a female figure whose images get distorted and misperceived by mass media, she has learned to consciously conform and adapt as a way of manifesting her non-compromising. This discourse can be seen in “Oh Shit!”, which is a ballot screen printed onto a toilet paper roll satirizing the fallacy of democracy and narrating the oppressed voice of immigrants in a twisted and humorous way.
Brought up and educated by Chinese traditional value systems where each individual is accountable for the prosperity and adversity of the world, she feels obliged to make community-based engagement activities and artwork to empower not only herself. While conceptualizing to work with a community, she rethinks how to enter the community from an artist vantage. What role should the organization take, and what kind of reciprocal exchange system should she build in between herself and the community. In order to support her community, she strives to create a new narrative that contains a reciprocal exchange system. Through this system, she is determined to challenge the white supremacy and American gaze that has oppressed her as a woman of colour, a non-citizen, and a human being.