CCAD Stories: Fan Su finds strength in challenges
Like so many international students who come to the U.S. for college, Fan Su (Fine Arts, 2017) sometimes feels like the rope in a game of tug o’ war: On one side is her family in the Jiangsu Province of China. On the other is the creative awakening she is experiencing at CCAD.
For Fan, who will be 23 in April, learning to be happy in the space between these competing powers is what it means to be grown up. And she’s grateful that her experience has pushed her to mature not just as an artist but as a person.
“I miss Chinese food so much,” said the senior, who could graduate as early as December 2017. “I’m not sure if I can go back for the summer. I want to study more and find an internship, and I also want to stay with my family. I want so many things, but you can’t get everything. You have to choose.”
Fan studied European-style oil painting in China for two years at the college level before she came to CCAD. While she loved the solitude and peace of painting, the medium wasn’t right for her. At CCAD, the Fine Arts program would give her the freedom to explore other media and find the materials that fit her need for expression. She tried photography, sculpture, and fashion. It was glassblowing, though, that struck a chord — even though doing it for a living could come with some drawbacks for her.
“I feel stressed when I get a lot of attention,” she said. “Glassblowers do lots of demos, so you have to almost perform. But I love glassblowing, and if you really love it, you’re going to overcome.”
Being in the U.S. has broadened Fan’s horizons in other ways. She’s traveled to New York, Miami, and Los Angeles; visited art museums; and been exposed to new ideas and images. She’s also gained a fresh perspective on how the West views communist governments like the one in China.
“At first, I was very sensitive when people asked me about China, especially the politics. It took me a long time to figure out what kind of attitude I should have. I love my country and my culture,” she said. Even though people in a communist country have fewer personal freedoms, they are not less free in spirit, she said. Just as she does when evaluating her life choices — seeing nothing is either all good or all bad — she sees both sides of the coin.
Four Favorite Pieces
“I loved it so much, but I found out it’s just not me,” she said. She feeds her appetite for fashion with street photography and by collecting quirky, wearable objects like these (which she photographed for us):
From top left, clockwise: Enameled ear studs that remind her of a wifi symbol, Renaissance-era art-inspired Doc Martens, Gold-rimmed mirrored sunglasses, and a taxi-shaped bag tag she calls “cute, ugly and funny”
Favorite non-major class: Photography
It took a photography class at CCAD for Fan to realize the paradox that constantly snapping photos with her phone camera was causing her to actually see less of the world and lose awareness of nuances. “I felt like I was losing sensitivity to the environment,” she said. Putting a DSLR camera in her hands changed that. She found herself appreciating her environment and more carefully considering how she would communicate what she was seeing to an audience. She especially likes working black and white — "it's more poetic ... and it helps you focus on the subject," she said.
Fan’s pretty sure she won’t work as a photographer, but the lessons she learned in that class have stuck: Her phone camera app is pretty empty these days. Some examples of her work below: