ARTIST OF THE ISSUE: JOANNA WEI
Dauntless and venturesome with her process, Joanna Wei ’21 has created visual art in many mediums and is an accomplished artist at Hopkins.
Wei began her journey as a visual artist at the age of four and has since dedicated herself to her artwork. In preschool, Wei recalled “[coming] in every single day... and just us[ing] crayons and draw[ing] the same house.” Wei’s mother soon noticed her interest in the visual arts and helped Wei pursue this passion throughout her childhood: “My mom has been the biggest influence to me because she always said, ‘You know, this is obviously something you love, so I’m not going to discourage you from doing it.’ I guess just having someone to tell you that, you know, you’re right on track and they like what you’re doing is a tremendous help.” Wei continued, “[my mother] would take me to museums or galleries for as long as I can remember, and she would always provide me with paints or pencils.” Wei believes the support she received as a child contributed to her current artistic success.
Wei takes inspiration from Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the most accomplished oil painters of the seventeenth century who challenged society’s patriarchal conventions. Wei said, “She prioritized the female narrative in her artwork and also pushed for feminism in the arts, which I believe is extremely important.” Even though Wei supports feminism in the arts, she explained, “I don’t like to outright express social justice issues in my artwork because I’m not ready for that yet.” Instead, she noted, “I can see a personal narrative in my own artwork.”
Covid-19 has impacted Wei’s artistic process. Before the pandemic, Hopkins allowed Wei “to do anything [she] wanted.” Now, however, Wei must reevaluate her approach, often asking herself, “Which piece can I work on at home versus which piece can I work on at school by transporting it back and forth? What mediums am I limited to inside my house?” Wei has started to create more 2D projects. The mediums required for 3D projects are difficult to acquire or use in a domestic setting, so at-home weeks limit Wei’s ability to work in three dimensions.
Wei usually gravitates towards using oil paint, watercolor, and charcoal. “I see different mediums as representations of my different goals,” said Wei. “I use oil for landscapes or still lifes as oil paint is just a beautiful medium to work in. Watercolor is quite nerve-wracking and volatile as there isn’t the same room for mistakes as with oil. Charcoal is great for expressive work or portraits.”
Wei described her artistic process as “a series of problem-solving... If I’m able to push past those problems, what’s next? What else can I do to make my piece better? Or, what other kinds of artwork can I create?” Wei prefers to improvise: “[I’m] the opposite of a meticulous person. I get really annoyed when I have to plan everything out beforehand.” Instead, she “immediately start[s] working to try and see what happens.”
When asked to give advice to aspiring visual artists, Wei suggested: “Don’t be afraid. And if you want to try something, you have to go for it. ... you can’t be afraid of criticism or what everyone else thinks. You just really have to create for yourself and for what you believe in.” As for Wei, she cannot envision a future without art, and plans on minoring in visual arts during college.