Graduate Student Artist: Jing Chen

Artist: Jing Chen

Jing Chen is a graduate student at the Columbia University School of Social Work. Jing left a high-powered corporate lifestyle in search of a new direction. Along the way Jing discovered her passion for oil painting. During her time at Columbia, Jing found inspiration through her social work practice, and with the guidance of her professor Joan Snitzer, Jing continued to push herself throughout a series of art classes at Barnard College. Jing began developing her vision as a channel for renewed understanding, using oil painting to express her complex vision.

Jing Chen: Self Portrait, 2010

Much of Jing’s work was inspired by the time she spent working with patients battling drug addiction at a local hospital. Some of her darker works were inspired by the stories her clients told. Her work reflects how she processed their accounts of murder, addiction and personal devastation. Jing truly challenges the viewer to connect with each situation she presents. The abstract style of her work allows the viewer to connect with the raw emotion that she pours onto every canvas. Her paintings each hold their own unique energy.

At the hospital, Jing facilitated an art therapy group. She described how one client stood in front of the canvas for three hours straight, and painted nothing. Empathically Jing explained that it was too difficult for the client to connect with the feelings that would allow the brush to flow. It was too painful for her to begin the process of allowing herself to feel what she had been protecting herself from feeling for so long.

Jing Chen: Pleasure of Human, 2010

Jing states, “ It is not about how well you draw, but about how well you connect with your feelings.” Jing describes how her painting has provided her with a link to her own emotions.

Was it hard at first?

Yes, it was very difficult in the beginning. I was very afraid of being judged and criticized. I was caught up in being too cautious. Eventually, I learned to let go and be truthful to myself. That is when my work started to flow. With art it is very important to respect your feelings and emotions, to accept who you are, with your imperfections, and face reality. There is no ‘right or wrong’ for an artist, it is about connecting to how you feel. Art has really helped me to understand myself better. I don’t paint with my hands I paint with my whole body. I feel through my paintings.  I need to paint. It is an indispensible outlet for me. Like a diary, it is my memory dump.

What do you hope viewers take away from your work?

My hope is that my art can help others connect with their own thoughts and emotions.

What is the most exciting part about the work you do?

The color. I build a relationship with a painting and it takes on a life of its own.

If you have more questions for Jing post them here!


Tonya Marie Reid, CUSSW ’10


About Tonya Reid

Harlem-based Art Enthusiast.
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22 Responses to Graduate Student Artist: Jing Chen

  1. Dong says:

    Jing, this is fantastic! So proud of you! Hope to see your works in person soon.

  2. charli yandolino says:

    Hello Jing,
    I had no idea you were painting, I am very impressed, you are brilliant in so many different things but I am really happy you have had the time to express yourself in such an amazing way.
    You inspire me.
    You are a very special person.

  3. Mary Sormanti says:

    This is fantastic, Jing! It is a joy to see how your own generous spirit is transformed into art, which is also inspired by the people you have met in your social work training. Thank you for sharing this with me.

    Mary Sormanti

  4. Mary Sormanti says:

    This is fantastic, Jing! It is wonderful to see your own generous spirit transformed into art, which has in turn been inspired by the people you have met through your social work training. Thank you for sharing this with me.


  5. Tonya Marie says:

    See Jing’s work in person at the Deviations Thesis Show @ the Diana Center on the 4th & 5th floors April 19-26, Opening: April 22, 5-7pm:

  6. Joanne Z Cohen says:

    Jing! I am soooooooooooooooooo impresed Would love to connect this summer at our NEW beach. xoJZC

  7. Jeanette Takamura says:

    This is an inspirational account of your explorations and your discovery of a medium through which you are giving expression to your experiences and your self.
    You can be proud of your willingness to risk and venture in order to grow and share.
    Jeanette Takamura

    • Jing says:

      Dear Dean Takamura,
      Thank you so much for your encouragement! It means a great deal to me. I shall continue to strive.
      Jing Chen

  8. Jillian Kelly says:

    Congratulations, Jing! Your work is as beautiful as you are as a person 🙂

  9. Lydia Barker says:


    You are always surprising me with the ways in which you give yourself to others.

    Your paintings are very moving. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    -Lydia Barker

  10. Loreen Cabaliw says:

    What beauty to see what you have created. Your clients, I am sure, have been inspired by your creativity as well.

    No wonder I enjoy your thoughts in poetry.

    See you.

  11. Otylia Dulnik-Hsu says:


    Your work is amazing! It was a nice surprise to see a fellow student with such a great talent. Good luck and hope to see more in the future 🙂


  12. Alexis Diaz says:

    Jing, I was so surprised when I heard about your artwork! I had no idea there is this whole other side of yourself 🙂 Great work!


  13. Tyler says:

    Your artwork is amazing! This reminds me of when I tried to first start out as a musician. No one believed in me, but I believed in myself. I hope you believe in yourself, b/c we certainly do.

    Live the dream Jing. live the dream….


  14. adeena says:


    i am a social work post graduate from India and am looking forward to doing PhD in social work at CU. Could any of you advice me about the quality of PhD at CU, about schlarships and if there are any other top quality universities around the world that i can apply to .

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