- by Alexander Joseph Kinzel
WHAT I CAN'T SAY WITH WORDS
THE EXQUISITE VISUAL ART OF I-LUN HUANG
Born in Taiwan, I-Lun Huang has been making art since the age of three, when her mother signed her up for dance, piano and painting classes. By age five, I-Lun had decided that for her there was no life but the artist’s life and has built towards the goal of being a full time artist ever since. I-Lun describes how “Art is my way of expression and communication. What I can’t say in words or write on paper about our society, about the environment, about my family and myself, I transform into art, photographs and multi-media visuals.” I-Lun’s work, delicate and minimalist and sparse, speaks volumes in muted hues and ingenious posturing of her subjects, showcasing her unique eye for both photography and visual design at once. Each image I-Lun painstakingly makes, speaks to her innate knowledge of traditional techniques, while also demonstrating her incredible ability and desire to challenge both the aesthetics and inherently oppressive tendencies of these traditions.
Self-Portrait. Proper Speech. 2019. Digital Print on Paper, Blood. 61 x 61 inches.
Before coming to the United States for her MFA at Purdue University, I-Lun was interested in portrait photography and devoted herself to learning everything about this field. During this time, she worked for a professional photo studio, and organized photoshoots with her friends on the weekends to gain more experience in shooting portraits. With a background in performing arts, Huang, uses the body and movement as inspiration even when working on visual art projects. As an artist, she has recently been interested in discussing, through her art, the constraints and limitations Asian women experience in Taiwanese society. Along with this, much of her current work engages with the cultural and personal dislocation she has experienced since moving to the United States.
Her work has garnered much national and international attention, and in the past year alone she was awarded many prizes, including being a selected recipient for the 2019 Tainan PhotoGo Awards, winning the Bronze Prize for Fine Art/ Portrait at the 2019 Tokyo Foto Awards, Portrait as well as being a selected recipient for the 2019 College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Master's Creative Work Award in Indiana, among others. Her work, to name a few recent examples, has been exhibited in January of 2020 at The Self-Portrait gallery of the University of North Carolina, December of 2019 at the Heritage preservation in Tainan, Taiwan as well as at the “CPAC Who Are You?” Exhibit at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Denver, CO in November of 2019.
Femenine Series #5. 2018. Digital Print. 11 x 11 inches.
I-Lun describes how, “Through masquerading myself into different characters, these photographs show different personality traits I have developed trying to fit into the new society and environment. These are digital photographs featuring myself as a subject in various costumes, poses, and props exploring artifice, fiction, fashion, gender, and race. Through this process, I am interested in building a bridge between the fictional and real-world, understanding how to resolve conflicts and what it means to navigate two different cultural worlds.”
I-Lun Huang’s is a gentle but critical presence, and her work is masterful in that through it you are shown an image and are quickly able to feel the important feminist and cultural messages which this art communicates, without being directly or too obviously told what is being presented. I-Lun, through her numerous awards, grants and gallery shows, has been able to add to the old adage about an images being worth a thousand words, for her work not only communicates at least a thousand words, but does so interchangeably between any language and culture that is lucky enough to engage with it.