By: Sarah Steighner
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Artistic. Humble. Genuine. These are just a few words that describe one of Penn State New Kensington’s latest adjunct professors, Jia Li.
Professor Jia Li recently taught a Chinese Art History class at PSNK. The class was a three credit accelerated course that concluded after ten weeks at the end of October.
The class examined the history of various Chinese dynasties, studied famous pieces of Chinese artwork, and even dabbled in the practice of many Chinese art techniques.
Throughout the duration of the class students had the opportunity to personally make a handful of paintings and calligraphy using ink on rice paper in which they presented for their final grades.
Freshman and Chinese Art History student Cole Wilson said he decided to take the class based off its interesting and cultural nature. “I really enjoyed the class, and learned more than I expected,” Wilson said.
Li described her experience at PSNK as challenging but rewarding. “At the beginning I felt a lot of pressure, but when I got here New Kensington’s colleagues gave me the warmth of family both in work and life,” Li said. “They were a great help.”
One of the PSNK staff that helped mentor Li was Professor of Philosophy Dr. Irene Wolf. Wolf and Li first met in 2006 when Wolf was teaching at Jinan University in Guangzhou China where Li served as her English translator.
In light of Wolf’s previous extensive knowledge of Chinese culture, she mentioned how surprised she was regarding how much she learned while sitting in on a few of Li’s classes at PSNK. “I really liked her emphasis on paintings from certain periods and dynasties,” said Wolf. “Just the few classes I sat in on, I learned so much.”
Since the class ended, Li has returned to her hometown of Beijing. However, during her period of teaching at PSNK she brought her daughter to America with her as well as her parents whom are also artists.
In fact, PSNK allowed Li’s parents to have a small exhibition of their artwork in the campus knowledge commons study lounge on Oct. 31.
Li also gave a presentation of her personal artwork on Oct. 21. Staff and students all attended an hour long exhibition in which Li explained her artwork displayed on various mediums including themes representing landscapes, friends, family, cars, and flowers. Her art ranged from traditional classic to modern contemporary all of which she explained offer a snapshot of surrounding life.
“Painting to me is an expression of the inner self,” said Li. It is the flowing emotions from my heart to pictures. One word in a sentence is not enough. You need more power such as through art.”
Some of her artwork vividly expressed family and friends that she personally knew. Meanwhile, other portraits expressed detailed attention to the action, posture, and composure of her subjects.
Li explained that she draws her inspiration from her experiences and life around her; such as her daughter who was born in 2012. “Before her birth, my art was dark,” said Li. “Afterwards, my art was more colorful and fresh.”
Her passion for her artwork was evident through her teaching and presentations of personal artwork on campus at PSNK. “For me, painting involves a lot of imagination,” said Li. “It can record some touching moments of life and create a new reality. It can be found in the heart or the mediocrity of life. My painting is an expression of my inner self. I love and want to share my feelings with people through painting.”
Before teaching at PSNK, Li had previously taught at Shenyang University, Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, and Tsinghua University. Currently, she is teaching at New Media Art and Design School of Beijing, University. However, she plans to be a visiting scholar at the German Cassell University for six months where she will teach a course on art practice. During that time, she also has plans for a solo exhibition in Hamburg, Germany.
Li received her Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree from LunXun Academy of Fine Art. In 2009 she received her PhD from the Academy of Design and Art at Tsinghua University.
Li’s artwork has been exhibited in various places including Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, Seoul, and Singapore. Some of her artwork also appears on various stamps, postcards, and handbags sold in China.