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.
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 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