Written by Emilie Kefalas
SCAD’S eighth deFINE ART wrapped up Friday with notable exhibit receptions, including “Student Showcase,” an annual exhibition of graduate and undergraduate student artwork. Artists on display included current graduate student Bin Feng (M.F.A. photography), whose collection of portraits, titled “The American Dream,” depict his own interpretation of the title’s theme.
“The whole idea is based on the American dream from the Chinese perspective,” Feng said. “Everything you see in the images is based on my experiences, because I came here four years ago and started learning the language.”
Originally from Shanghai, China, Feng received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art in 2012. During his undergraduate years, he opened and operated a commercial wedding photography studio for two years. After school, Feng said he realized his heart was in the fine arts, which is why he dropped the business and moved to the United States.
Feng does not limit himself to just photography. He also creates video installations, sculptures and large-scale oil paintings. For “The American Dream,” Feng utilized his relationships within the local film and production community for props and sets. The project took almost two years to complete.
“For this particular project, it’s more staged [and] fabricated,” Feng said. “I have a crew of about 20 people. They help me. It’s almost like a movie production group. It’s a very contemporary reading of photography. It’s not about the darkroom anymore. It’s more about collaborative work.”
When Feng came to the United States, he said he had to learn English organically by talking to people as much as possible. He said he improved his English by getting involved with different creative projects, but the change of scenery from Shanghai to Savannah was also a bit of a culture shock for him.
“For me, Savannah is a town rather than a city,” Feng said. “But I enjoy the rhythm. You can just focus on making artwork. I didn’t go back [to China] for nearly five years, because during all the breaks, I [would] drive to New York City, Houston, Chicago, to just check out the art festivals and to see all the masterpieces in their museum galleries. I feel like I had to because, on some level, Savannah is very isolated. So for an art student, you have to go to the real world to see what’s going on in the market.”
Feng said observing American culture by traveling was integral to the final motifs in “The American Dream.”
“I don’t think the American dream exists anymore,” Feng said. “I’m trying to see if an Asian figure can do anything in the art market or in the art history which is judged from the Western point of view.”
Of all the mediums Feng dabbles in, he said photography is the one he is currently most committed to because it allows the audience to focus on a single scene without getting distracted by additional elements in the frame.
“For me, you can always go back to the same landscape and take pictures,” Feng said. “But for portraits, you won’t be able to go back to that age and take a photograph of yourself or of someone else. So I feel like for me portrait photography is more unique, and it has a timeless beauty.”
A total of 27 pieces, each 40 inches by 60 inches, make up “The American Dream,” and Feng hopes his viewers will appreciate his images as reflections of what the American dream is for them.
“I’m not forcing everyone to be interested in my theme or the topic I want to convey,” Feng said. “But I want them to at least get some sort of experience of just being the image, reading the relationship between light and shadow, and to appreciate the beauty of the models.”