WHY THE NAME "EMILY DICKINSON?"
When I first decided to exhibit my artwork publicly in 2009, I wasn't very concerned about marketing or branding my name and my work. I wanted all the emphasis to be on the image/object on the wall, not the presumed identity of its maker. I preferred to show anonymously, but that proved problematic for galleries. So I opted for a pseudonym instead, and I wanted one that fit well with the artwork, the same way you'd choose a frame for a piece of art. I chose "Emily Dickinson" because I thought it offered a good entry point for deeper appreciation of the paintings, especially the Plainsong Elegies. Her mythic persona of simplicity and quietude, her somewhat austere New England sensibility and her complex relationship with the transcendent seemed to match the character of the paintings. Unfortunately, many viewers felt confused or misled, expecting some more literal reference to the poet or her work, so I eventually discontinued using her name.
WHY THE EAST ASIAN LOOK?
In my senior year of college I did an independent study project, writing a thesis on some of the Northern Song Dynasty landscapes at the Metropolitan Museum. In their pictures these artists tried to simulate the experience of walking through an actual landscape, introducing an element of time in the viewing process. One "travels" vicariously through the picture. The elongated proportions of the picture allows the eye to move rhythmically across or down the surface in a linear fashion. Moreover, the artists were trying to describe their own subjective responses to nature, not an accurate optical facsimile: you're moving through a landscape of the artist's mind, not one specific to a certain earthly locale. This approach to painting, practiced in China over a thousand years ago, describing an emotional sensation inspired by nature, didn't appear in the West until 19th century Romanticism. Although there are some symbolic elements in their work, e.g. a pine tree representing longevity, mostly the paintings reflect a Taoist-influenced attitude in which a living organic spirit beneath the surface of perceived reality can be subtly evoked through washes and skillful brushwork depicting mountains and streams.
I think these formal qualities can be adapted today to make really engaging artwork that addresses big issues. And there's no longer any implicit rule prohibiting an artist from one part of the world from sampling techniques and ideas from another. China today is full of artists doing work in oil on canvas.