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Art & Life with Nancy Fong

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nancy Fong.

Nancy, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
As first-generation immigrants, my parents stressed getting a good education and to study something where I could earn a living. In college, I tried to take classes other than art but after a year of just taking academics, I missed artmaking. We moved to a capitalist country from a communist country, so my parents were concerned about my prospects. Despite the pressures of my family and this new society, I was still trying to make art. Painting was something I couldn’t do all the time so I worked it into my bus transfers on my way to work. In this way, it was an act of resistance to be an artist because the role of art in our society is not to make money.

I had a studio in Printers Row while I lived at home and worked at a doctor’s office. My parents didn’t know I had a studio – they thought I was only doing the things they told me to. To go to work, I had to take a couple of buses so I would get off by my studio to paint, then before my bus transfer expired, I would catch the bus the rest of the way to work.

Eventually, I took on a couple jobs as an artist. I had a sign-making job, worked at a ceramic repair shop, and at an art gallery. I was always striving to create. I am a full-time artist now: I teach art, I paint and I monitor a weekly figure painting group.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My art is about self-exploration. I straddle two cultures. Having one does not disregard or minimize the other. My growing up experience/home life is culturally different from my school and work experiences. When I was much younger, I tried to hide my cultural idiosyncrasies, trying to be generic like everybody else. As I grew older, I learned to appreciate and celebrate my heritage. I do oil paintings. Paintings of my stories are like sharing my life and memorializing events, such as the calligraphy and dumpling making paintings. People are interested in these works and like to hear the back story, which shows that the more they know, the more they appreciate.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
There have been lots of immigration issues lately, which has always been something I have heard a lot about in my family because Chinese were not welcome in this country as shown by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, whose quotas weren’t entirely lifted until 1965. My family came for economic and political reasons. There was no work and my father had five children to feed. He felt the political situation there was very restrictive. The national and international issues make me think of the difficulty my family and my people had to go through to come here.

As we become more multicultural, in addition to embracing multiculturalism I want to preserve my culture and educate and share with others, and when people know more about other people, you can appreciate and understand and not be afraid of others. Then, you know that it doesn’t minimize you or make you less important or smaller. It’s just more appreciation and knowledge. It makes for kinder world.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I am an Artist Member at Oak Park Art League. Sometimes, I exhibit there. I have a painting in the permanent collection at the Oak Park Public Library, and two murals along the Green Line embankment on South Boulevard in Oak Park. I don’t have a website but you can find some of my work online if you search my name. Also, you can get in touch with me at

Show some love and respect. Like slowing down a bit to smell the roses, take some time to breathe in and feel my paintings — not with your hands but with your heart, as the paintings are the efforts of my heart and hands. Also, I enjoy feedback and conversation about my work. Then, if you are so moved, add a Nancy Fong painting to your collection.

Contact Info:

  • Phone: 708 445 8105
  • Email:

Image Credit:
Nancy Fong, Wing Young Huie

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Deborah Preiser

    December 14, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Thank you for the lovely, informative article on Nancy Fong, one of our very accomplished Oak Park artists.

    Another Oak Park artist I recommend that you contact is Jonathan Franklin. His background is also very unique. His father was an engineer in Southeast Asia when Jonathan was young. His mother would encourage him to spend time with a older artist neighbor. At some point, Jonathan moved to Israel, became a citizen and joined the Israeli army. He drew sketches of the men and equipment around him on small pieces of paper which would fit in his uniform pocket.Later on, he moved to Oak Park from Michigan. He is also a member of the OP Art League and has a painting in the Oak Park Public Library.

  2. Julie Wendt Brundage

    December 18, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks Nancy! It’s an interesting article and I’m glad I get to draw with you on Tuesdays and have you as an artist friend! I love those “working” paintings because that is what I love to paint. There is dignity in working people that is important to record.

    Julie Wendt Brundage

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