Artist; Educator; Co-Founder, Asian Cultural Center of Vermont;
Brattleboro, Windham County
Owner, C.X. Silver Gallery and Cai's Dim Sum Teahouse. Growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China, the education I got was collective actions such as criticism of others and self-criticism. Criticism was to find a target to denounce, whoever was around me, a teacher, a friend, one's own parents. Self-criticism was finding a fault or weakness about myself to denounce - a regular requirement for all students and citizens in those days. The social ethos featured the general feeling that no one is special, individualism hardly important
.My parents saw that I was not getting what I needed in my formal education, so my father took me under his wing and gave me the first art lesson. My mother persistently pushed me into art practice. It was her daily principle of 通 (tong) - 'going through' – that gave me the strength and courage to guide me through every aspect of my life up to today.
In 1987 I immigrated to the United States, learning English by watching the children's TV program, "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood". At the start of every program, Mr. Rogers would say, "You are special. There is no one in the whole wide world like you. You are special." This greatly liberated me. This was the first time I had seen myself as an individual, recognizing my own abilities and my own courage.
Raising my children has been a tremendous education for me that cultivated in me multiple strengths - as student, teacher, chef and career artist. I was a Chinese language teacher in public schools for 9 years. In the winter of 2012, I got an untrue, discriminatory 'pink slip'-type letter about my job performance, stating: "Your Chinese exercise is creating an unsafe environment for our students". I transformed this experience into part of my MFA study, creating "The Pink Slip Project" and "Our Meal Table".
The vision of this project is to transform the negative destructive experiences into art objects and art making. Through meals that I provided, I engaged individuals, one person at a time, in conversation and collective support for each individual to find their own inner strength and dignity to move on in life. Through the Pink Slip Project, I have come to realize how much need there is in my community here, where I now call 'home'. I am intending to continue to provide Our Meal Table to engage in such conversations in support of many individuals.
Recently, an artist friend of mine invited me to collaborate with her for The Wedding Gown Project. We raised a single question: "What is the meaning of marriage?" My friend has salvaged numerous wedding gowns from the thrift shop. We each took a pair of scissors and cut a wedding dress in half. Each of us took a half to work on – to transform it into something we do not yet know. But one thing is sure for both of us - the transformation must happen and will be.