Full-Time Artist Jenie Gao on Pushing Past Either/Or Thinking

Dec 10 2018



When I came up to the Wisconsin area to work, one of the companies that I was working for was in manufacturing, and I really came to appreciate manufacturing in the sense of making things on a big scale. That spoke to me as an artist—in what ways our industry represents that, embodies that, and in what ways it has been disconnected as well.

All through this time, I was making my art.., I wanted creative autonomy. I wanted that for other people, and I very much saw creativity as being linked to everything else that we do. About three years ago I decided that it was time for me to make that leap and go back to focusing fully on my art as my practice.

I grew up in a family that was practical and wanted me to choose practical, safe things that weren’t an option for my family members when they immigrated here. So, this idea of, “Why would you choose something like the arts,” and “Why would you choose to build a business when you could do something else that’s a lot more stable?”

A lot of life will tell us that we have to make these either/or choices. There are all these false dichotomies in how the world works and I just didn’t see it that way. It was just a matter of how to get these different things that you see and want in your life to match up. I’d say that at any place that I worked, I cared a lot about how I could make things better while I was there and bring in the things that were important: creativity, community, stewardship.

There are a lot times when we default to what we have to do rather than what we feel like we really must do, what we’re called to do, and it’s for that fear that our ideas can’t actually come to fruition. The only way the world ever moves forward is that at some point in time we realize it isn’t the way it should be and so therefore we must work towards that. It doesn’t exist now; that’s why it seems like it’s impossible. But if you have the idea, there is a practical way to get there.

Watch Jenie Gao’s full interview here.

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Allison Kelley


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