The watercolors in Dad’s Hands Are Smaller were created during a time when Wu’s father underwent a serious medical emergency which forced Wu to drop out of school and attend to his family. He began making the paintings, around 200 in all, as a way to keep his balance during a stressful time when days were spent in the hospital environment. When he returned to school, the experience of making the paintings allowed him a way to re-imagine his artistic practice as one rooted in helping people to see creativity as a resource open to everyone, not just people trained in art schools. As he says, “The story of art is in everyone.”
John Ziqiang Wu has created an artistic practice that has one foot planted in the wry questioning approach of California conceptual art and the other foot in the tender intimacy of David Hockney’s portraits of friends and family engaged in daily life. He has charted his explorations in a series of artist’s books: Learning Art and Art Learning Society (2017), The Lamps’ Story (2018), and CalArts’ Story: The Place and The People (2018). In the books, he documents observations of his surroundings while asking questions about how institutions work and how we build relationships within those institutions. The books are anchored by delicate succinct watercolor paintings of the environments he is in, the people he knows and the objects that interface with their lives.