Both Holly Roberts and Wanxin Zhang reconstruct reality by repurposing it. Roberts, one of New Mexico’s most influential contemporary artists, photographs nature and elements of our physical world. She doesn’t re-present the imagery she photographs; she constructs entirely new images using magnified tiny areas of texture. While her images are undeniably residential in her personal interior world, they evoke “memory” or “connection” in all of us, because we recognize something familiar in them. Sometimes a tiny swath of a hair becomes an enlarged mass of texture in a bold, large, Roberts image. While we don’t immediately identify what part of nature the textured area represents in reality, it speaks to us of humanity and a richness we all share.
The terra cotta warriors found in Xian, buried near Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, largely influence Zhang, a Chinese artist. As a ceramicist, when he first saw these warriors that protected the burial site of the emperor, he was struck by the individuality displayed in every single sculpture. The fact that artists took such great care to give different human attributes to each warrior, lent reverence to their task. Zhang sees his “warriors” as all of us—contemporary man and woman. He imbues each of his “warriors” with symbols indicating contemporary life, such as spectacles, binoculars, and skateboards. He uses the same techniques with his clay and glazes, as the artist’s millennia ago, thereby referencing the past while making a statement about contemporary life.