Emerging Artists | Lei Q. Min

Portraits of the past and present

Lei Q. Min, Fishing Village, oil, 36 x 48.

Lei Q. Min, Fishing Village, oil, 36 x 48.

This story was featured in the August 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  August 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

When Lei Q. Min’s sister wrote a book about her experiences as a Chinese-American immigrant, she asked Min to contribute illustrations. Min’s ensuing research so touched her that she embarked on a series of paintings that portray the experiences of early Chinese-American women immigrants, including stories of hardship and discrimination. “We’re talking about a period from 1850 to 1950,” says the figurative painter. “A lot of these were sad stories.”

Min’s family members often star in these period pieces, most of which are interior scenes staged in her studio with vintage décor and furnishings. The authentic costumes worn by her models are all handmade, sometimes by the artist herself. Using historical records and her own photographs of historic sites near her home in San Francisco, Min has re-created numerous poignant narratives. In ANGEL ISLAND, she portrays young Chinese women within the barracks of the Angel Island Immigration Station, which operated from 1910 until 1940. There, Asian newcomers were detained for interrogation, sometimes for months, before they could join their families in San Francisco. “I used a cool color palette for the moody light,” notes Min, “to indicate the sadness.”

Min studied art in her native China and later in Brussels, Belgium. In the 1980s and ’90s, she found success as a portrait artist for government officials in Singapore. After moving to San Francisco in 2000, she continued her fine-art studies and earned a master’s degree in painting from the Academy of Art University. Today her figurative works, which she paints from life using the alla prima method, have garnered top awards from prominent groups like the American Impressionist Society and the Portrait Society of America.

For years the artist painted in the tradition of the Dutch masters, and her historic paintings tend to reflect that darker, heavier style, says Min. But lately an emerging interest in the works of Joaquín Sorolla and other Impressionists has been playing out on her canvases. In April, she received the highest honor in the BoldBrush competition for a bright, impressionistic painting titled SUMMER GARDEN. “I love the feeling that I can sculpt the paint,” says Min. “I’m also interested in seeing the accidental effects, the unpredictable brush strokes, the warm and cold colors. Those kinds of things really bring me joy now.” —Kim Agricola

representation
www.leiqmin.com

This story was featured in the August 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  August 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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