Xiaolei McKean

Growing up between China and the U.S. shapes my awareness about identity. These transitions between cities and cultures activates my exploration into notions of belonging and memory. My work plays with the vulnerability that accompanies transition and change in life. Like a haze with moments of clarity, I draw upon certain memories in a restrained, yet romanticized way that reveal and provoke a more universal understanding of tradition and the continuous search for my own identity. I respond to this state of uncertainty by creating large-scale pieces that provide a calming and soothing space of respite for myself and others.

Informed by Western and Eastern crafts, my work evokes a dreamlike state of reflection through delicate materials such as silk, paper, and thread. I recreate Chinese traditional rituals through making multiples of nostalgic objects in a pastel color palette. For example, repeatedly constructing over 100 Chinese New Year red envelopes in an ethereal peach-like color. By working in a specific color palette, I create a visual metaphor to describe my unique Chinese culture experience. In this way, the physical forms of my work are tangible memories—an evidence of my hand. This evidence becomes a mark and place of belonging, and the final product is a quiet, ephemeral place to contemplate my own humanity and transience in a world that is constantly shifting. I aim to create work that contemplates the identity of a person who has no concrete physical location of “home”, but describes “home” in an experience-based perspective.