Mei Mei Chang Red

Mei Mei Chang

Takoma Park, MD | by May 20, 2011

I’ve known cheeses to cost $100 per pound and more, but as a cof­fee devo­tee, I never knew loose tea could fetch this kind of price. This is what I was greeted with when I vis­ited Mei Mei Chang in her Takoma Park, MD apart­ment and art stu­dio this past win­ter. Savor­ing every sip, we shared a pot of this fine and rare white tea that was care­fully poured into mis-​​matching tea cups accom­pa­nied by sweet orange wedges. This gen­eros­ity and thought­ful­ness per­vaded my visit with her and it wasn’t a sur­prise that it also car­ried over as she dis­cussed her work that cov­ered the walls of her cozy and orga­nized space.

Mei Mei par­tic­i­pated in The Stu­dio Visit’s first cri­tique ses­sion held at the Wash­ing­ton Project for the Arts as part of their Coup D’ Espace pro­gram this past August 2010. Dur­ing this cri­tique, Mei Mei pre­sented work dig­i­tally. Although she was for­mally trained as a pho­tog­ra­pher, it was clear to me that she was thor­oughly explor­ing and enjoy­ing the idea of draw­ing as instal­la­tion. Her show last year at Hilyer Art Space curated by Pat Goslee, was a tes­ta­ment to this kind of visual expres­sion and it was from her par­tic­i­pa­tion dur­ing the August cri­tique ses­sion that prompted me to see her work in her studio.

Tak­ing my refilled teacup with me, I imme­di­ately noticed her antique black Singer sewing machine promi­nently placed in front of the main wall of her stu­dio. On her desk near the sewing machine I found charm­ingly dis­played was a col­lec­tion of com­puter cords hung care­fully atop a desk lamp.

She talked about the inspi­ra­tion behind the map­ping of these men­tal land­scapes and how they began as a response to her per­sonal envi­ron­ment and the nos­tal­gia she feels towards the ongo­ing devel­op­men­tal changes her for­mer U street neigh­bor­hood con­tin­ues to expe­ri­ence – for bet­ter and for worse. Influ­enced by Chi­nese and Korean land­scape paint­ings, Mei Mei fur­ther addresses how her work evokes a place that strad­dles the worlds of the east and west and yet her sense of belong­ing is very spe­cific to the Wash­ing­ton D.C. region where she has been a res­i­dent of for about ten years.

Under­stand­ing what the line can do as both sewn and taped is one thing, but to actu­ally see them as del­i­cately stitched and cas­cad­ing forms con­nect­ing one plane of paper to the next is another. Her work offers a degree of illu­sion with this stitched line of vary­ing col­ors and lengths. Up close, it is tan­gi­ble and iner­tial as it flut­ters from the small­est breeze. Step­ping back, the threads flat­ten out as if they were drawn with pen­cil or ink, or they sim­ply dis­ap­pear. Mei Mei points out how the vio­lence from the sound of the sewing machine some­times directs where the stitched line is going and where it ends. This nod to the his­tor­i­cal rel­e­vance of imbu­ing mean­ing through ones instru­ment is evi­dent in the play­ful and graphic topo­graph­i­cal lay­er­ing of the thread lines that often make ref­er­ence to a speci­ficity of archi­tec­ture and volume.

Over­all her work is a car­to­graphic abstrac­tion of a cere­bral and yet sen­ti­men­tal jour­ney of her phys­i­cal envi­ron­ments – a psy­che of place and of no-​​place — that con­tin­ues to grow and break from one wall to the next, from one island of paint to another, con­nected by the ten­sion of frag­ile yet resilient lines of thread, tape and wire.

I con­tinue to drink one strong cup of cof­fee in the morn­ing, but I’ve since added a tea time rou­tine in the afternoon.

Mei Mei will be show­ing new draw­ing instal­la­tions and paint­ings at an upcom­ing group show at Addi­son Rip­ley Fine Art this June, 2011. For more infor­ma­tion on her work go to her web­site at www.meimeichang.com


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3 Comments

  • AMM says:

    Fan­tas­tic and infor­ma­tive write– up … intrigu­ing artist– look­ing for­ward to the show at Addison-​​Ripley

  • JOREN says:

    I first saw Mei Mei and her work in win­ter 2009. It’s great now to have the write-​​up with the images here. Mei Mei really devel­ops her work. Con­grats on the Addison-​​Ripley show!

  • Paul Walsky, MD says:

    Mei Mei,MD
    I have been search­ing for you for years. I con­cluded you left Eye Prac­tice in CA early in your career. If this site is “You”, I would not be sur­prised that you are in the arts. Please con­tact. Paul

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