Nice to Meet You!
Summer Studio Work-in-Progress: Huidi Xiang
by Stephanie Cheung, Photos by Stephanie Cheung
“It was a big surprise,” says Huidi on her realization of what Project Row Houses really is. “Community” was never a thing for the rising junior at Rice University who, raised in Chengdu, China, is more used to bolted doors and solitary existence. “My art was always about myself. It had nothing to do with community and politics.” But the experience at PRH has opened a new door.
“Communities are made up of individuals,” reflected Huidi. Her project at PRH turns out to be an exploration of individual experiences as atomic units in a larger community. This takes the form of a series of toy-like configurations. They represent her daily encounters and musings, which are essentially personal but also have something to do with her being in a diverse environment. For instance, one of the pieces is a plywood rabbit, fatally poked through in the forehead. It is the outcome of a thought process about a particular personal choice (which Huidi prefers to keep to herself), and the acknowledgement of different opinions, culturally conditioned or individually opted.
Huidi hopes that her little sculptures will create a “conversation” space. She believes that through the use of familiar found objects, curiously alienated with die-cut renderings of her conceptual additions, the pieces can trigger individual imagination and associations. I asked her whether these interpretative voices are monologues or conversations. She thought for a while and said, “It’s a conversation within oneself.” At this point, her habitual introspection is venturing into a threshold populated also by other people. She might not be up for an extended dialogue, but she is saying “nice to meet you.”
Nice to Meet You! is the title given to this body of works. Huidi sees the whole set as a sculptural diary. Again it is centered on her own subjective experience, but as she says “nice to meet you,” this diary is not locked but opened. While some pieces are rooted in private moments, others have sprung from her multisensory acquaintance with Third Ward. “My works might look the same, but the thinking process is different. It is not just about my own thoughts, but also what is going on in the surroundings.”
Previously, to assure privacy, Huidi asked her professor whether she could have only one viewer at a time. Now, she has decided to open both doors, welcoming visitors (in plural) to her shotgun house. Beside her self-referential Big Toe, an adopted cactus keeps her company in the studio. A tiny “baby” was just born on top of the spiky succulent. At the exhibition, it will be shown with a note in all caps: “THIS BABY WAS BORN HERE.”
About Stephanie Cheung
Stephanie Cheung is a Hong Kong based curator and writer. She is Lead Curator of the non-profit Make a Difference Institute, an Asian platform dedicated to building a creative civil society. With a fellowship grant from the Asian Cultural Council, she is currently researching on socially engaged art in different cities in America.