Today we’d like to introduce you to Susie Xiong.
Susie, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I was born in Chengdu, China, and immigrated to the United States at the age of four to join my parents on the south side of Chicago. Art has always been a passion of mine since childhood, though culturally family steered me towards law and medicine. In junior high, I decided to pursue art as my career, and worked on getting into as many art classes in high school as possible. My major at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign was Art Education, since it allowed me to share my passion with kids. Seeing students experience “ah-ha!” moments of grasping a concept or the smile when they overcame the challenges of the artistic process was fulfilling. After teaching K-6 art in charter and public schools for over four years, I took on the name InsomniaBird, and began concentrating on creating my own art again.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
Drawing from my education background, I believe the visual arts are a form of everyday expression, and should be accessible to individuals of all ages and backgrounds. It can be as piercing or as light-hearted as the artist wishes it to be. My artwork mainly features acrylic and ink, with reoccurring motifs, including large-eyed birds, nature, emotions, and the personification of everyday objects, influenced by street art, surrealism, and Japanese kawaii, or cute, style.
What do you know now that you wished you had learned earlier?
As a child of immigrant parents from a pluralistic culture, shame and comparison were always looming over me. There were times where I was told that being in the arts would never amount to anything, or that I would be starving. If my worth is tied to my job title, relationship status, health, looks, or other external factors, then shame will find an opportunity to strip away my courage, dignity, and authenticity. If my worth is tied to me being human, imperfect but growing day by day, learning to reach out and loving other imperfect beings, then I am enough. Please remember that you are enough!
Can it be stressful and tight financially to be an artist (especially with pre-existing health conditions)? Absolutely! It’s taught me to be frugal and savor what I have. I live within my means, and find my fulfillment in the relationships I build, the small businesses I work part-time for, and the opportunity to take the risk that many aren’t able to.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
People can usually find me at Atomic Sketch, a live drink-and-draw event hosted by the Green Eye Lounge on the last Thursday of every month. I am exhibiting at the Surreal Rabbit in Pilsen for Women’s Month this March, and at the North Austin branch of Chicago Public Libraries in May for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. My goal is to work towards outdoor art events and fairs this summer.
Support can come in the form of attending art shows in the community, considering commissions, or purchasing original art or merchandise in person or on my Big Cartel store (coming this May). Some of my most treasured memories are of people who walk away with my pieces with a big smile.
- Website: www.InsomniaBirdArt.com
- Email: InsomniaBirdArt@gmail.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/insomniabirdart/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/InsomniaBirdArt/
- Other: insomniabirdart.bigcartel.com (coming in May 2018)
Brian Esmao (for personal photo)
“Drink Up” wall by POSE in the West Loop