‘Show’-ing Taiwan to the world, one stitch at a time
When Lily Huang told The China Post that “art is life,” looking at her elaborately refined stitch art pieces, it is hard to believe she started her life as an artist only 10 years ago.
Arriving at Lily’s art studio on the penthouse level of a Neihuarea apartment adorned with lush plants and a very relaxing hammock, it is not hard to see how much importance and solace she places in the act of creation. Before she took up exploring the many cultural themes of Taiwan in her artwork, Huang worked in highly competitive foreign companies in the electronics field based in Taiwan, including Siemens.
”It was hard at first for me to adjust from the high-speed environment to something that is surrounded by stillness,” she told us. Not having a background or the chance to come in direct contact with art, Lily started first by taking drawing lessons at a local community college where she said traditional mentalities toward drawing and stitching were the dominant styles of representation.
With some experimentation and self-initiative, she discovered an innovate way of using disordered stitching embroidery on wire meshing.
Showing us examples of her stitch art, one can observe her passion for Taiwan’s current affairs. There are framed embroideries of Taiwan’s aboriginal people as featured in the hit film “Sediq Bale.” She explained that she was inspired first when Taiwan native Wang Chien-ming became a pitcher for the New York Yankees. In a television commercial, a taxi driver asks Wang about Taiwan with the star pitcher saying: “I’ll show you.” Lily adopted this mission of “showing Taiwan” with her stitching. The English word “show” when pronounced in Mandarin can also mean “stitching” ( ) and also “comforting” in Taiwanese.
In a piece showing the island’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper (once the tallest on Earth), modernity and tradition are juxtaposed. She uses a floral background common in Hakka culture ( ) serving as foundation for the towering symbol of Taiwan’s economic might. Lily wistfully said that the intention was to show how the hard work of previous generations paved the
way for later prosperity.
Stitching as Action and Behavior
For Lily, her artwork’s three dimensionality gives it a sense of movement with different angles of light refraction as a viewer walks past the work. But the “action to art” is also inherent in her ideals of sharing the positive and vibrant tones of Taiwanese and Chinese culture. When she posted pictures of Jeremy Lin on the basketball court during the height of the “Linsanity” phenomenon, a local library responded enthusiastically asking if she was willing to have it displayed to encourage youngsters to put effort into their dreams.
Aside from opening her art studio to the greater public, Lily has also used her “mobile stitching workshop” to engage with society, teaching parents and children and senior citizens the methods behind her craft. Her workshops have taken her to the Presidential Office, Taipower and other community centers. In the fast-paced age of smartphones and instant gratification through social media, stitching provides an unlikely state of solace for young people she said. Older generations also find the activity a nostalgic throwback.
”Stitching used to play a critical role in Chinese culture. A lot of grannies added to their dowries by fashioning pillows, blankets and other items,” she said.
Her ideal to share was also something that challenged her in the beginning. While her former occupation prized an efficiency coupled with anonymity, in the beginning, stitching in the open public in front of total strangers took some getting used to. But in the end, the draw of sharing her passion through demonstration allowed her to gradually overcome her shyness.
”Art is more than showing other people your perspective,” she says. “It is also about interacting with your participants.”
While her earlier works of scenes from Taiwan are presented in painstaking detail, Lily says she is moving toward a more abstract phase in her art. This Van Goghlike expressionism leaves more to interpretation and is also more dependent on her shifting moods, the materials she happens to have on hand and the passage of time. While on the one hand spontaneity seems to win out, the wire grids also contrastingly dictate a certain form. At times she begins with no purpose. At times she is stitching while reading Buddhist texts.
As the modern styles to stitching have proliferated around Taiwan following her bold experimentations, Lily looks forward to projects that will bring her art to the international stage. Her works have also been shown in mainland China, Japan and France. Embodying the sprit of the island’s breakthrough athletes, its struggle to gain acceptance on the world stage, Lily’s life’s work vibrantly shows off Taiwan, one stitch at a time.
For more information about Lily’s artwork and contacting her about her open studio, please check out Magic Lily Stitch Art at: https://www.facebook.com/magiclilystitch Grace Ting-ann Lee also contributed to this feature.
1. “The Opera Lady Warrior” Huang’s work exudes movement, as this representation of Peking Opera shows. Light refraction on the stitches makes the image “jump out” as the viewer moves from one perspective to the next. 2. “Linsanity” Huang’s portrayal of basketball star Jeremy Lin, who then played for the New York Knicks, was well received and served as inspiration for youngsters to follow their dreams. 3. “Showing Taiwan — 101 Taiwan Red” Backgrounded on a vibrant Hakka-style floral patter, this portrayal of Taiwan’s tallest building combines elements both traditional and modern. For Huang, it symbolizes the hard work of the previous generations who brought about contemporary Taiwan’s prosperity and modernization.