By Bonnie Gangelhoff
In 1995, the Oil Painters of America awarded Mian Situ its top prize—Best of Show at its National Juried Exhibition. The prestigious award seemed to announce Situ’s arrival to the representational art world. Today his intricate, large-scale depictions of his native China, as well as the Chinese immigrant experience in the western United States, cause jaws to drop among collectors and artists alike. Since appearing in Southwest Art in 1997, he has garnered many more accolades. Situ studied art in Maoist China in the then-popular Russian style; he now calls Southern California home. But his heart as a painter, he says, lies in preserving the traditional ways of his native country before they vanish from the modern-day world.
Has your style or approach to your art changed since you first appeared in Southwest Art? My style remains the same, though I have become more involved in painting the history of the American West, especially the Chinese immigrant experience. A lot of research is needed to understand history—to get the subjects and the facts right and to portray the feel of the period. I have an advantage because many of the early immigrants came from the area I am from in China, so I am familiar with their culture.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far? I am thrilled when people love my art.
What advice do you give to artists just starting out in their careers? I’ve tried before to adjust my work to the market’s taste, but that always fails, so then I go back to what I most like to paint. Acceptance comes when people see your soul in your art.
What motto do you live by? You are never too old to learn.
What artists have influenced you? I love old masters such as Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Sargent. And I like the Russian masters such as Ilya Repin. When it comes to living artists painting the American West, Howard Terpning is the one I admire most.
What are you working on now? I am working on pieces for the Masters of the American West show.
What’s your next big goal? I will keep doing what I’ve been doing, but I still strive to find a more personal approach. Individuality is important in art.
Trailside Galleries, Jackson, WY, and Scottsdale, AZ; Situ Art Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA; www.miansitu.net.
Masters of the American West Fine Art Exhibition and Sale, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA, February 6-March 7, 2010.
First appearance in Southwest Art: Portfolio, May 1997
Awards won since then: I’ve won many awards from the Masters of the American West Show, including the Masters of the American West Award, 2002 and 2009; Thomas Moran Memorial Award for Painting, 2002-2004; and Artists’ Choice Award, 2003, 2005, and 2006.
Show participation since then: I’ve been in the Masters of the American West show
very year since 2001.
Price change since then: In 1997, my average price for a midsize painting was about $4,000. Now, the same size is up to $22,000. The auction record for my historical paintings is $576,000.
Featured in “Success Stories” in December 2009