In anticipation of the exhibition 40 under 40: Craft Futures, on view at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum from July 20, 2012 -- February 3, 2013, the museum asked the 40 artists featured to share personal videos of themselves with our audience. Here above is what I submitted.
I prefer many names such as Joey, Zhou-Yi, Yousef or José, for within each one lies a certain identity that I have developed in the culture where that name evolved from. Born August 27, 1984, I'm a native of Auburn, New York (the home of William H. Seward and Harriet Tubman plus on a dark note the birthplace of the electric chair invention). I'm an alumnus of both the Putney School and Alfred University and received my BFA in Beijing from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), becoming its first American graduate. In 2015, I graduated with an MSc in cultural heritage studies and conservation science at UCL Qatar, part of University College London's inaugural class. My work has been exhibited extensively throughout Asia and North America and is in numerous private collections. I have received several site-specific commissions, including Greenpeace, Bank of America, Chevron and Manulife and my work has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek. I’m a recipient of the 2010 TEDGlobal Fellowship and was selected by The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum as one of 40 Under 40, a major exhibition highlighting the work of forty artists born since 1972.  

I live and work extensively throughout Asia but currently reside in Kathmandu, frequenting Doha, Beijing, Hong Kong, Jingdezhen, Indonesia, India and Juarez, Mexico as well as some random seedy airport lounge in-between.

“A new experience not only replaces old ones but also provides a layered view of how we see ourselves, and the world we inhabit. These new narratives, maps, discoveries, often propelled by happenstance, form the foundation of my work, which strives to attain and provide a discourse of globalization in a recognizable way. My practice entails various mediums. Whether the sculptures, which bridge an awareness of social and environmental issues or the ceramic vessels, which focus on humanity and practicality, the unifying thread is language. As an American living abroad since 2005, I understand the importance of language and communication. My work constantly questions the acts of cultural misunderstandings we so readily commit, whether they are the preconceived gaps between East and West or the byproduct of learning about your own culture by participating within another. That dialogue, the transitional pull, provides new insight into our own intimate history and contribution. With a respect to time, place and a sense of community, while working with local residents, I have created works that illustrate that within the boundaries of culture, politics and self-expression there are possibilities for individuality – not dwelling on the limitations, but what can be utilized within them. This is expressed in the choice and manipulation of the mediums. I do not push my materials to the edge but in fact, embrace and investigate the banal features they exhibit. The expression of individuality within my work is based on the ingenuity of the creative idea, the exchange. Working within countries often noted for their lack of individuality and self-expression, the projects, shared experiences, stress that the realm of discovery is the foundation, not the status of the procurer or the object that evolves.

I am as much of a Nepali, Qatari or Chinese artist as I am an American artist. All four cultures are prevalent in my work as well as in the life that creates them. This, in many respects, is my goal when I think of the often used phrase, “The American Dream.””

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