Jackie Chang: On Knowing Where

Categories: ASC, Blog, Cultural Partners

By Tori Chester, Arts & Science Council

Charlotte’s McColl Center for Visual Art has a new artist-in-residence, acclaimed public artist Jackie Chang. Chang, who previously completed public artwork for Mecklenburg County’s Jail North facility, returns to Charlotte to develop artwork for the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Lynx Blue Line extension project.

The project is a series of public art at the J.W. Clay Blvd. and University City Blvd. stations. Chang’s larger-than-life, mixed-media artwork is characterized by a combination of words and images to communicate a deeper meaning. For the CATS project, she chose to focus on the concept of abstract locations when she noticed the compass rose as a recurring theme throughout Charlotte.

“It’s everywhere!” Chang said. “The statue at the airport of Queen Charlotte is a compass rose… the University center [features] a compass rose.”

With the idea of the compass rose solidly in mind, Chang decided on three words for the piece: here, there, and where, which will be accompanied by glass windscreens depicting a field, a mountain, and trees.

“‘Here’ is [a] concrete [concept,]” she explained in her studio at the McColl Center. “‘There’ is more abstract, like the horizon, [or] the ocean… ‘where’ is in motion.”

Born in Taiwan and raised in America, Chang is not a stranger to public art. After graduating with her Master of Fine Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she went to New York City, where she had her first gallery show at the Peter Miller Gallery. The show was well-received.

Encouraged, she set to work on another project—a series of awnings that focused on consumerism. The gallery owner offered her a chance to do a second show. Chang asked to display her work outside, but the owner refused. Undaunted, she asked a series of shop owners on a single street to display the awnings for exactly two weeks, the length of time her work would have been in the gallery. The owners agreed, and she never showcased a new piece of art in a gallery again.

Chang’s work has been displayed in locations ranging from the youthful offender facility in New York’s Riker’s Jail to the Minneapolis Public Library. “Signs of Life,” a series of six mosaics commissioned by the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority and displayed in a Brooklyn subway station, has been very popular.

Now, as artist-in-residence at the McColl Center until July 27, she feels that the Queen City personifies the “where” of her piece. Although Charlotte has been around since before the American Revolution, it was not always the active center that it is now. The banks helped to bring in jobs, but the blooming cultural sector gave the city an active nightlife. Now, as a center for both business and art, Chang feels that Charlotte is the ideal place to represent a city in a “swirl” of constant motion.