art, people, visual-arts, alumni
Writer: Sylvia Sukop
June 15, 2013

When the Bee Stings

Zhe Chen (BFA 11) 

Approaching her subjects from a deeply personal perspective, Photography and Imaging alumna Zhe Chen explores the possibilities—and the limits—of photography. Going to ArtCenter “taught me to be fearless,” says the Beijing-born artist who now lives in Los Angeles, and it shows. Her long-term projects evolve from the notion and mechanism of self-injury and its psychological effect on individual narratives and collective identity.

Zhe Chen credits her ArtCenter instructors with “letting me know that sometimes it’s okay to feel more than you can understand.”

 

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Bees No. 022–03, 2010 by Zhe Chen

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In 2011 Chen received the prestigious Inge Morath Award, the only award that carries the imprimatur of Magnum Photos, given annually to a woman photographer under 30 to assist in the completion of a documentary project. Bees, a provocative collection of her color photographs, was co-published by Beaugeste Gallery and made Feature Shoot photo blog’s “Top 15 Photo Books of 2012.”

Chen feels a strong affinity for her subjects, many of whom she first connected with online—“a marginalized group of people in China faced with chaos, violence, alienation and irredeemable loss in life” who, she says, feel compelled to leave self-inflicted marks on their bodies. Her book takes its title from Virgil, who observed how bees, after stinging, “let the sting lie buried, and leave their lives/Behind them in the wound.”

She credits her ArtCenter instructors with “letting me know that sometimes it’s okay to feel more than you can understand,” and asserts that her photographs hold secrets, “information awaiting exposure and recognition—like an index page pointing toward all the unanswered questions.”