Friday, December 31, 2021

Martin Hsu Art 2021 Year-In-Reflection. Happy Year of the Tiger!

Happy New Year, my friends!

Hope you and loved ones are staying safe and feeling well.

As I sit here reflecting on this past year, I am filled with joy, grief, and tremendous gratitude.

One thing is certain, it would've been much more difficult without your friendship, love, and encouragement.

Please join me to rejoice and remember 2021-

[ Ni Hao, Taiwan ]

2021 started off with a luxurious 4 months in Taiwan with my family. It was during a time when Taiwan had zero to very few daily Covid cases. Imagine being able to dine anywhere without a mask, go to a crowded outlet mall, or attend a big Chinese wedding banquet?

On January 7, I also had the opportunity to open my first solo exhibition in Taiwan since 2015. It felt so good to have an in-person opening reception again!



Cute and Quiet

I dedicated this new collection of work to our families and friends during these uncertain times. Mighty little women are symbols of hope and happiness in full bloom, wearing silk organza peony dresses inspired by Taiwanese floral textile and Alexander McQueen. 

My intention was to inspire stillness in chaos and peace within.

View artwork online

Jan 7 - Feb 27, 2021
CC Gallery

'Q' was created entirely during my stay at my parent's apartment in Taiwan. I packed 2 huge suitcases filled with wood panels, paints, and brushes.Thankfully, everything traveled accordingly and arrived intact. My worst nightmare of exploding paint did not come true!

With my mom's blessing, I transformed her mahjong room into a very functional art studio. The room had great natural light and a whole wall of family photos smiling back at me.

On top of all, my dad drove me everywhere and each meal was prepared by executive chef, Mama Hsu. It was the best 'Artist In Residence' I have ever had.

I also remember how anxious I felt about it. A solo show overseas? I had to be quarantined for 2 weeks upon arrival? What if no one came to see the show during a pandemic?

Oh, the joy of self-doubt!

And yet, little by little, pieces fell into place. I found myself on the gallery floor the night before the opening feeling calm and peaceful. There was a tremendous sense of relief and ease to finally see each piece up on the wall and beautifully lit.

I was in love and very proud of myself.

And to my delight, the show was a big success!

According to the gallery, it was the biggest opening reception they've had. I was thrilled to have so much of my family and friends in one place, including my parents, aunties and uncles based in Taiwan and Vancouver. It was such a treat to connect with friends from Taiwan and America. The collective love and support was overwhelming. 

For a brief moment, it was as if life were back to normal.

It wasn't until later when I realized how valuable this experience was for me. Now I know I'm capable of creating and delivering a truly 'Martin Hsu' show anywhere in the world. All I would need are my paints, brushes, and a mahjong room!

Additionally, I learned new ways to promote an exhibition from afar by going live on social media. I was able to bring art lovers into the same space during virtual tours. It also gave me a chance to say hi to friends!

My long stay ended after four months of being pampered, overeating, and much needed family time in Taiwan. The seemingly Covid-free lifestyle was refreshing and rejuvenating. The overwhelming support from friends, collectors, and patrons validated my vision and empowered me to keep making my art. 

Much love to my family for creating a warm and safe space for me to dream and create. I miss them dearly and cannot wait to see them again... soon.

- - - - -

[ Hello, America ]

It felt weird being back in America after spending four months in Asia. My imposter syndrome kicked in immediately after we landed at SFO. I never had to question my identity in Taiwan. Yet after 30 years in the U.S., my desire for Asian American self-discovery grows stronger each year.

On one hand, I still get angry when the server only makes eye contact with my Caucasian friends at a restaurant. On the other hand, this kind of prejudice, projected or not, has become part of the integral force that drives my creative engine.

 "Oh, what kind of art do you make?"

"I make New Traditional Asian Art."

In all honesty, I still struggle with this question. Because for most people, New Traditional Asian Art just doesn't exist, unlike impressionism or abstract art. Maybe it will one day?

What I do know is cultural representation matters. Making Asian art in the 21st century connects me to my heritage, history, tradition, family, community, and identity.

What can I say? I'm an old-fashioned Asian fella in 2022 who loves 17th century traditional Asian art. It makes my heart sing.

- - - - -

[ All Creatures Great and Small ]

It was nice to be back in my art studio in San Francisco. My bliss station.

I began work for a nature themed show titled 'Actual Size', where all creatures great and small were to be depicted at its actual size. Most exciting!

My love affair with the wood grain continued with a large piece featuring a majestic hawksbill sea turtle. Critically endangered, hawksbill turtles grow up to be 3 foot long hence the 36x36" wood panel.

Hawksbill Rising is one of my favorite pieces from 2021. The glorious floating sea turtle is a spiritual symbol for hope and wildlife conservation. Metallic gold paint shimmers as the light hits her armor-plated shell. She looks back at us with a gentle yet determined gaze... as to say that her future lies in our hands.

Hawksbill Rising
36 x 36" acrylic on wood panel

- - - - -

[ Personal Commissioned Art ]

Hi, there. Meet Molly.

I always feel like the kid who gets picked first on the playground when asked to make commissioned pieces. Especially, when I'm given the honor to immortalize a beloved furry friend. 

Our dear Molly was among a few of these precious paintings I had the privilege of making in 2021. It's a bittersweet process consisted of looking at old photos and retelling their life story. 

I always get a little emotional upon completion. I know the painting doesn't replace our friends, but I hope their spirit lives on through it.

"Shine like the whole universe is yours" - Rumi

Sometimes painting feels like energy work.

Star Child was one of these pieces created for my good friend, Christina. The painting features Christina as her inner child, hooded in a radiant golden cloak, drumming and thundering across the universe. Star Child is a source of solar energy and universal love. She is beaming at the center of all five primal Chinese elements represented by planets. A guiding light on Christina's transformative journey to become more connected to herself and the universe.

By the divine power vested in me, may your inner child awake and shine!

- - - - -

[ Art and Productivity ]

Does nice art in the office increase employee productivity and happiness?

In 2021, I was commissioned to provide artwork for the new Plaid HQ office in San Francisco. As part of my proposal, I was asked to include research on how art relieves stress and boosts energy in the office.

(Pink Moon, Silver Moon, Peach Moon. Plaid HQ, SF.)

“Aesthetic in the truest sense means energy-giving which is what a workplace needs, rather than a bland, industrial environment which can be more like giving workers a dose of anaesthetic.”

"Art is a way of retaining staff and encouraging them to be in the office, at a time when people increasingly want to work remotely."

- Alex Heath, managing director at International Art Consultants, which advises workplaces on art.

(Sea Otters and Ocean's Delights, Monkey and Plum Blossoms. Plaid HQ, SF.)

"One of the many health benefits of art is stress reduction. While no workplace can really be stress-free, the fact is that something as simple as adding tranquil pieces of art around the office can help to alleviate the physical and emotional symptoms of excessive stress."

(Urban Wildlife: Mountain Lion, Raccoon, Coyote. Plaid HQ, SF.)

"Studies have found that looking at certain types of art can make us feel more joyful and instantly make us feel calmer. If you find employees are too anxious to produce the work necessary for the success of your business, you may find that adding art can be one effective way to lessen the load."

I couldn't agree more!

- - - - -

[ Hsuper Fun Zoom Events ]

July, 2021

Once again, 2021 broke the hearts of millions of nerds from around the world by canceling most comic conventions. I was sad not getting to see my friends at San Diego Comic-Con.

So to fill this nerdy void, I created my own online comic-con experience again in 2021. To repeat 2020's event, Attendee Passes included VIP access to spend two hours with my buddy Miss Mindy and I for a fun-filled dorkout on Zoom. 

Welcome to my virtual SDCC booth!

I also hosted a Dragon Boy writers panel featuring my good friends Joshua Pruett and Teresa Huang where we revealed the Dragon Boy book we've been working on!

At our closing cosplay party, we gave virtual tours, did live drawing, and played trivia games with original art as prizes. Check out Sheri's Dragon Boy cosplay and Loki Dragon Pup by Misao!

August, 2021

Due to Covid, I never got to do another Artist In Residence at Disney's WonderGround Gallery in 2021. The month long in-person event was the perfect opportunity to catch up with fans and friends in Downtown Disney. So I feel extra special when they send me photos of my artwork at Disneyland!

The 2021 edition of Martin Hsu Artist In Residence Online was extra magical. Inspired by the Magic Key annual pass, I made a Hsuper Key for my guests - the key to my heart!

I invited Disney sketch artists, Wes and Lilli to share their experience with drawing Disney characters by request at WonderGround Gallery. Our trivia game winners even got to take home original sketches of Maleficent and The Little Mermaid created by them!

October, 2021

For the spookiest month, I took on the challenge of #RubyGloomInktober. It was ghastly delightful.

I created daily ink and watercolor illustrations of my girl, Ruby Gloom, Doom Kitty and their ghoulish friends for the entire month of October. It felt SO good to draw Ruby again after almost 20 years.

Oh, and I compiled all 31 paintings in a very gloomy book!

The most incredible thing about Ruby Gloom Inktober 2021 was that I got to reconnect with Ruby Gloom fans from around the world. 

Some even attended me virtual Halloween Party as Ruby Gloom characters from the books and the cartoon! I love these guys... and so does Ruby.

Is this the new norm for social interactions?

I hope not. I want to hug my friends. 

But for now, come Zoom with me!

- - - - -

[ Heal and Stay Cute ]

"Am I a therapist with a brush? How does my art heal?"

(Little Blessings: Minnie, Kitty. Acrylic on wood, 2021.)

"How do I make exquisite paintings of cute tiger cubs that feel soft and cuddly without losing their intrinsic depth, wisdom and wildness?

(Tiger Cub, Play. Acrylic on wood, 2021.)

"Do orchids come with tiger stripes?"

(Tiger Cub, Dream. Acrylic on wood, 2021.)

Just some questions that ran through my head while working on these new paintings exhibited at Art Taichung 2021, an international art fair in Taichung, Taiwan.

What do you think? I hope they make you feel good!

- - - - -

[ The Art of Cultural Representation and Social Justice ]

Do you believe in Gods walking among us?

Welcome to Martin Hsu's Asian American mythology - Chinatown Gods.

Meet Sidney Yuen, a.k.a. The God of Prosperity.

I am in love and very proud of this new series on view at Luna Rienne Gallery, SF.

Like many, I was outraged by the racist attacks on our fellow Asians and Asian Americans. And because I grew up in a tight-knit household with elderly family members, my fury erupted when I saw old grandmas and grandpas being brutally and deathly attacked.

As an Asian American artist, I felt the duty to respond and react by creating visual stimuli to raise awareness. It took me a long time to realize what these visual stimuli look like. Now I know they are the Chinatown Gods.

 Meet Mei Ha Wong, a.k.a. The Goddess of Vitality.

She sells bouquets of flowers that her son buys at wholesale.

I want to make art that connects people. I want to make art that inspires compassion and empathy. I want to make art that heals trauma with joy and humor. I want to make art reminds people the feeling of being held and loved by their own grandma.

Meet 88-yr-old fashionista, Shi Ping Tang, a.k.a. The Goddess of Longevity.

I absolutely lover her bangs. I also couldn't resist giving her a Chanel bag and Supreme hat.

I want her to have all the good things!

Chinatown Gods is inspired by Chinatown Pretty, a photo and storytelling project that celebrates the street style of seniors living in Chinatowns.

Book by Andria Lo and Valerie Luu. Available for purchase here.

- - - - -

[ Real-Life FaceTime ]

I really miss having people over at my studio/gallery.

On the rare occasion, I got to reconnect with good friends here in 2021. Some I met exactly 10 years ago like Maria and Carolyn's family. Just look at how big the kids have gotten since 2011!

It felt amazing to see them in person. Their encouragement and enthusiasm revitalized this tiny space. Their presence and big smiles kept me in good company for weeks to come.

Come vist anytime!

- - - - -

[ 30 Years in America ]

2021 marks the 30th anniversary upon my arrival in America on June 28, 1991.

Sometimes I wonder how life might've been if we had stayed in Taiwan or moved to New Zealand.

I am forever grateful to my parents for choosing this path. 

It's good to be here.

- - - - -

[ New Hope, 2022 ]

Lastly, on this last day in 2021, I really just want one thing-

I want you, me, and everyone to stay safe and healthy.

2021 was an emotional year filled with pain and grief.

Reach out to friends and family. We are here for you.

Take good care, my friends. Here's to hoping a happy 2022!