Portland painter and book artist Shu-Ju Wang immigrated to the United States from Taiwan at the age of 15. Profoundly informed by this experience, she explores themes of fear, isolation and transition in her deeply personal work.

“With immigration, you’re not here or there,” said Wang. “You’re everywhere in between.”

During her first years in the U.S., Wang ached for the comforting foods of her homeland. Inspired by this longing, she opted to use food as a metaphor for understanding immigration.

Sh-Ju Wang encourages touching of her art pieces to follow its story, in this case, the journey of fear.

Sh-Ju Wang encourages touching of her art pieces to follow its story, in this case, the journey of fear.

Oregon Art Beat

 Wang’s focus on transition extends beyond immigration. She is especially interested in our changing landscape, and in particular, the ways we may be impacted by the inundation of water due to climate change.

On another note, she explores her own fear of water on a deeply emotional level: Her father nearly drowned when he was a child, and due to an embedded generational fear, Wang never learned to swim.

Shu-Ju Wang uses food as a metaphor for understanding immigration.

Shu-Ju Wang uses food as a metaphor for understanding immigration.

Oregon Art Beat

Despite her fear of water, Wang enjoys being near it.

On a neighborhood walk, she discovered a small stream in the woods near her home. Intrigued, she decided to follow the stream to its origin. The small trickle eventually led to the Columbia River, and thus, to the Pacific Ocean. Wang recorded the journey in her three-minute video, “Following Arnold Creek,” as one component of a larger installation at the Waterstone Gallery. The 2017 installation, “Grounded,” addressed our planet’s dwindling supply of groundwater.

Driven by personal history and curiosity, Wang not only invites us into her world; she invites us to explore our common connection in the larger one.

Whether serious or playful, rational or emotional, Wang’s work highlights the inevitable transitions paramount to human existence.