Biography: Xiang Yang (1961)

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Biography: Xiang Yang, Artist (1961)

Women hold up half the sky. Mao Zedong

Xiang Yang is a dedicated, prolific and highly imaginative artist whose work has been seen and sold all over the world.

She was born in Qingdao, Shandong China in 1961, the year that marked the end of the terrible Great Chinese Famine.

Much had changed in China by the time the then 14-year-old Xiang Yang began studying art.

It soon became clear that the young woman was on the verge of creating a unique artistic style that would draw on her budding sense of self-esteem, much of it stemming from her new-found, if not-yet–fully-articulated belief in the equality of women.

It is this faith that has allowed her to capture the internal and external beauty in women that has come to dominate her work.

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Here is an artist who is unafraid to celebrate the beauty of the human form that not only defines her as an artist, but indeed defines her as a woman.

In her varied and multidimensional work, we can follow a direct line from the American Girl in Italy to the recent incarnations of #metoo.

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The famous 1951 photo by photographer Ruth Orkin called “American Girl in Italy” featured Ninalee Craig. 

Her art depicts the full and quite-natural complexities of the world, one filled with love and grief, regret and optimism, loneliness and sexuality, happiness and faith. 

It is a life foretold and remembered but, most of all, a life celebrated in all of its glories.

Today Xiang Yang, like her art, remains fiercely independent and equally dedicated to the power of women in her art and indeed the fight for equality for all women.

“I have never believed that women are inferior to anyone,” she says. “I want my paintings to portray women for what they are in real life – not perfect, but real and whole.

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“And yes, sometimes we carry the burden of past wounds, but we are resilient and we must always fight for the equality of women, no matter where they might be in the world.”

As for the future, she says she will continue painting, of course, but she is also looking forward to exploring other disciplines, including a new-found interest in sculpture.

And she also hopes to continue showing her work to audiences around the world.

“Given the obvious sexuality of my work, I am of course very interested in seeing how my work is perceived in other cultures,” she says.

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“The power and freedom of women is universal, but sometimes you do not know what will be the reaction to the sexuality in some other cultures. It is not a bad thing. But it is interesting sometimes!”

In the meantime, Xiang Yang continues to paint. And to reach out to new and aspiring artists, both in Italy and China.

She has organized a number of exhibitions of Chinese artists to the Castello Sforzesco de Vigevano and Mede with the aim of promoting Chinese art and developing intercultural relations between Italy and China.

It has been a long and interesting journey from Qingdao, China. But that journey is far from complete.

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