Chinese-born illustrator Jiayi Zhu is an artist with vast talents. Her work is animated, colorful and lifelike. With parents who grew up during the Chinese cultural revolution, Zhu was clearly influenced and motivated by this time period in her native country. Growing up in a very conservative part of China, she used artwork as her voice to communicate her own thoughts, some that might not be seen as usual for her culture.
The artist came to study art at SVA in New York City and has since used the city as her muse. In many of her pieces the artists actually incorporates herself into the scenes, a rue reflection of her own personal experiences in a vast city she has now called home for only five years. She says, “I would describe much of my art as an intimate view of some of my most vulnerable moments.” Having experienced sexism in her native country, Zhu uses this as inspiration for her work. She recently created a piece depicting a scene in which Chinese women who have premarital sex are sent to Buddhist hell to spend the rest of their lives with demons. The artist says “My art is a declaration of war against the suffering I endured in China as a woman.”
With China never far from her mind, Zhu is now working on a motion graphic project that highlights the plight of Chinese Immigrants. The project is for a nonprofit called Voice of the Chinese American. “The Immigrant experience is something I understand deeply and I’m overjoyed to be creating an animation that educates Immigrants on important information,” she says.
Jiayi provides illustrations for Chinese restaurants in the city such as the Kungfu Kitchen and the 99 Favor tastes; creates motion graphics, animation and poster design for nonprofit organizations like VOCA (The Voice Of Chinese American) and makes comics for online magazines such as Explore NYC. She has also worked as a portrait artist for people like Legendary fitness guru and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss.
Apart from making art, Jiayi’s biggest passions are volunteering and playing with her dog. She hopes that one day she will save up enough money to start her own arts nonprofit for under served communities. She also hopes to adopt 100 more dogs, although that doesn’t mean she loves her current dog (Haha Zhu) any less.
Photos are courtesy of Jiayi Zhu