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DUMBO Artist-in-Residence: Yiting Zhao (MFA 2022)

I was thrilled when the School contacted me about the opportunity to participate in the DUMBO Artist-in-Residence Program. I had visited the space for past artists-in-residence’s exhibitions and I knew the layout of the space – gallery space in the front and studio space in the back. The whole studio space is big enough for the artists to create any size of work. We had many opportunities for exposure of our work to the public while painting in the backspace, one stone two birds. The studio building is located in such a good spot, it has a lot of foot traffic in the neighborhood, but within the building is quiet and zen. I can concentrate on painting with zero outside-world distractions.

It is very important and lucky to have a space to paint right after finishing my MFA degree at NYSS. As I recalled, I didn’t start painting again until months after I graduated from undergrad. After undergrad, I had set up a makeshift painting studio in my bedroom, which was toxic to the body because I only paint with oil.  Having the studio space at DUMBO, pushed me to work immediately, not to mention it was provided free of cost through the School. I could use the money I had to purchase more art supplies and create more works. Two residents were participating in the program, my studio mate who also was my classmate in the MFA Program. It was pleasant to have a fellow artist familiar with my old works to give feedback on new stuff. And having a studio mate, in general, was especially inspiring, and I didn’t feel isolated which I know is a common experience for many artists after finishing their master’s program.

After Rubens ‘Meleager and Atalanta and the Hunt of the Calydonian Boar, graphite on paper, 11 x 18 inches, 2022

As a recent graduate freshly entering the art world as a practicing artist, the opportunity to stay in touch with everyone at the Studio School allowed me to transition more smoothly from being an art student to an independent artist. Even though, it was hard in the beginning to find a subject matter to paint. I began by mostly making drawings and transcriptions to push myself into the working zone. I was trying to analyze the geometry within Old Master paintings, and then incorporating the images into my still-life setup.  

I am a perceptual painter and I expected to still-life to be the most accessible subject. However, after I began working from a setup in the new studio, I lost interest, so I had to change my focus. I usually paint on medium to large canvases, but I decided to step out of my comfort zone and started to paint on small surfaces. I painted the smallest scale I have ever painted, making works as small as 5 x 5 inches. When I first worked on the small-scale paintings, I was still stuck in the same mindset of painting large-scale. The size of the objects within the small-scale surface was similar to the size of my larger-scale painting. For example, I could only fit one pear on the tabletop, and the outcome of the picture was simple and boring, I couldn’t think of doing a group of fruits on a small-scale surface, at least not until a few meaningful conversations I had with artists Diana Horowitz and Janice Nowinski. After the speaking with them, I realized my strength was in handling complex picture planes while I painted big, and I was trying to force that skill into my small paintings. The struggles paid off, some of my small paintings made their way to be part of a group show at Lancaster Galleries. 

Installation view of ‘Alumni Feature’ at Lancaster Galleries, March 2023

During the residency, I set out to further my investigation into the subject matter ‘lines’ and ‘fabric,’ which was a continuation of a painting idea from my NYSS MFA Thesis Exhibition. All of these elements made culminated in my final solo DUMBO Artist-in-Residence exhibition ‘Linger’.

Linger, 2023 Installation view 1


Linger, 2023 Installation view 2

As a DUMBO Artist-in-Residence, I had the opportunity to curate a group show in the gallery space. I learned a lot from this experience about all the many parts of putting on professional exhibition such as creating contracts which NYSS provided templates for. I was interested in creating a show that featured perceptual oil painters. Painting from observation to me is like putting in order the chaos in front of the painter, which is where the shows’ title came from ‘Orderly Chaos’. Through the responsibility of reaching out to artists, selecting works, scheduling shipment, making public announcements, displaying and installing the show, I gained so much curatorial experience. It was a great opportunity to reach out to painters, whom I appreciated and would like to thank them all again: Jack Albrittain, Silas Borsos, Nora Cohen, Sarah D’Ambrosio, Tristen Demmett, Abby Dudley, Kayla Edmonston, Peter Foster, Diana Horowitz, Sam Levy, Ying Li, Keith Pfeiffer, Stephanie Pierce, Edmond Praybe, Jameelah Thompson, and Hong Yang. 

‘Orderly Chaos’, 2023 Installation view

The NYSS DUMBO Artist-in-Residence was a great journey for me, I had more public exposure, gained experience curating a show independently, overcame many obstacles, and developed my art practice in ways I could never have imagined. I will always be grateful for my time there.

View work by Yiting Zhao on her Instagram account: @yitingzhao_zyt

Snapshots From NYSS

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