Z.Z. Wei

The American Spirit

Z.Z. Wei, <em>Snake River</em>, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches
Z.Z. Wei, Snake River, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches


Born in Beijing, China, Z.Z. Wei started painting during China’s Cultural Revolution but transitioned to depicting American landscapes after moving to the Pacific Northwest in 1989. This interview was translated by Hsuan Lin.

“This painting is based on the inspiration I got from traveling. This place is an actual place [in Eastern Washington], and it gave me the feeling of something like in Europe. It’s like a castle by the river. You can see the silos next to the river- it’s the monolithic feeling of the grain elevators.

The sight of the landscape is almost surreal for me. These kinds of landscapes are of a very typical America; they represent the spirit of America. That kind of spirit runs deep in this country even though it seems to be sometimes overlooked. I hope that through my painting I will bring this spirit into focus again, so people can see the beauty of the landscape and what the American spirit really is.

Even though I’m categorized as a landscape painter, I think I’m painting people without actually painting people. It’s the story of mankind and their interaction with nature and the environment. I want to create an atmosphere and a space for the audience to think for themselves, to contemplate and figure things out.

I try to use very simple, strong contrasts. Even though people see that my paintings are colorful, they’re not noisy. It’s not just stimulation to the eyes; the colorfulness and the contrast are meant to bring out the deep solitude or deep quietness, stillness, of the landscape. It’s kind of like a traditional Chinese painting: the atmosphere is the inner landscape of a person.”

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Noelani Kirschner is a former assistant editor for the Scholar.


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