This Self-Taught Artist Picked Up A Paintbrush At Age 48. Now The Art World Has Discovered Her.

This Self-Taught Artist Picked Up A Paintbrush At Age 48. Now The Art World Has Discovered Her.

Huey-Min Chuang never expected to show her artwork in museums when she started dabbling in art during the pandemic at age 48. “The last time I competed in an art competition, I was probably seven years old,” she says.

But it turned out she had a hidden talent and today her work appears in museums. She will be speaking on Sunday, February 12, at 2 pm about her journey at the opening of her exhibit “You Are Welcome Here” at the Voelker Orth Museum in Flushing, Queens, New York, where I will be interviewing her about her journey as an artist and one-person business owner. The exhibit—her first individual show—runs through April 11, 2023. The exhibit commemorates the 10-year anniversary of her mother’s passing.

An employee at an economic development agency in New York City, Chuang took up art when her organization shifted to working from home and she found the hours of solitude in her apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y. stretching before her.

“I felt we were living the darkest days of our lives,” she says. “In the darkness, I could see better. I connected with the universe in some way.”

She soon found that art allowed her to express how much she missed her mother, who passed away from cancer a decade ago. “She was a brave person,” says Chuang. “I felt her being in general.”

Starting out doing black-and-white ink drawings with markers, she found solace and inspiration in drawing the box that held her mother’s ashes. That drawing led to a series of 20. With family members suggesting she introduce color to her work, she soon transitioned to colorful, impressionistic paintings, cutting up plastic lunch containers to make brushes, extracting colors from coffee grounds as she waited for art supplies to arrive in the mail. She had soon embarked on a series of paintings with titles such as “Dancing in the Rain” and “From Here To There, We Are Always Together,” focused on the theme of resilience.

Although the world was locked in place, Chuang reminded herself that her mind was free as she drew. “Art spoke to me when I couldn’t do anything else,” she says.

Chuang was discovered after responding to an open call by an artists’ group in Long Island City. Since she responded to the open call, her work has been displayed at museums and juried shows and turned into a thriving one-person business. Venues have included, the Altoona, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Drawing Rooms, Imago Foundation for the Arts, Long Island City Artists, Marin Contemporary Art Museum, Puffin Cultural Forum, 6th Louisiana Biennial Show, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Trolley Barn Gallery, and Watercolor Society of Rhode Island. Along the way, she was chosen as an Artist in Action at the Smithsonian affiliate, Annemarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center in Solomons Island, Maryland. White Columns Gallery in NYC recently selected her to be a part of its curated Artist Registry.

Chuang says her work reflects her cultural background and her childhood experiences. The self-taught artist, who was born in Taiwan, moved to Argentina at age 10 and lived there under the care of her teenage brother when her father, who had trouble learning the language, returned home to find work and then asked her mother to come back home to run a school he started. “I had to be quite resourceful to live a regular life, learn a new language and go to school, playing with whatever resources I could get my hands on,” she recalls. Outside of school, the children ran the family’s small grocery store. One of Chuang’s duties was running to the currency exchange with a backpack full of cash, before the money lost value during the turbulent economy of that time.

An independent spirit, Chuang managed to excel in school and went on to attend Brown University. In her early career, she worked in investment banking, then moved on to positions in the nonprofit and government sectors.

Truang also wrote an award-winning illustrated book, You Are Where I am, and co-founded a dual-language charter school, Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls for 500 young girls, K-8. The school—where the girls had the opportunity to play violin every day and learn ballet—appeared in the 2017 Oscar finalist documentary film Joe’s Violin.

In this current chapter of her life, Chuang is focused on developing as an artist. “I don’t want to be confined by any rules or boundaries,” she says. “What comes out is what is most true and natural.”


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