Lu Cong (Artist)
Contemporary Portrait Paintings
About the Artist
Lu Cong (陆琮华) is a contemporary American portrait artist. He is regarded by many as one of the most distinctive young artists to recently emerge from the American West. His paintings center around the faces of his carefully chosen subjects. His style pays homage to 18th Century Romantics, yet it is unmistakably conceived in and relevant to the contemporary era. His portraits do not simply capture the physical and emotional state of the subject, rather they beckon to establish the complicated psychological interactions that ensue when one comes face to face with the sensual, the inexplicable, and the unsettling.
The Artist’s Own Words
My family lineage includes no artists that I’m aware of. My father’s father was ginseng dealer. My mother’s father came from a long line of bankers. Both of my parents are engineers. Many of my cousins are computer programmers. There are businessmen, teachers, bureaucrats, and professionals of all sorts among my aunts and uncles, but not a single artist of any discipline. However, I know very little about my grandmothers…
I was born in Shanghai, China in 1978. During the decades prior, the People’s Revolution has been secured. The culture was cleansed for our own good; everything that was considered retrograde, pornographic and bourgeois was wiped out. The benefits were obvious, for my parents lead productive lives as well-functioning comrades in a great new society. I wasn’t so lucky; I had a natural propensity for things that would lead a pure soul astray. By the time I was born, influences from the corrupt outside world started to trickle through. My childhood curiosity fixated on all things foreign, things of strange beauty, and anything that held traces of the past. I drew constantly and obsessively. My family did not care for my talent, and only tolerated it as long as I kept up my schoolwork. Even as a little child, I felt I was heading down a dark path with no redemption; no prospect for good jobs, no respect from family, and no useful contribution to the Motherland.
As if Fate knew that I’m of zero use to the People’s Republic, my family immigrated to the U.S. in 1989. We settled in a small town on the Mississippi River in Iowa, called Muscatine. My adolescent years were as idyllic as any proud Midwesterner would attest. Fitting in is hard for most kids, especially hard for a backward foreign boy who doesn’t speak English, yet I look back on my experience with relish. My drawing skills made things easy. Kids would lineup to get a portrait of Bart Simpson. They were eager to take me home to show off their new “Chinese friend that can draw Ninja Turtles.” I drew Precious Moments Kids to woo the girls, and buxom superheroes to impress my chums. Even as my new country embraced my talent, my parents were firm in their demand that I follow their footsteps down the well-worn path that is a career in science. Placating to their wishes, I completed a degree in pre-med biology at the University of Iowa. Two things saved my college years from being a complete waste of time; first, I took some art classes. Second, and most importantly, I met a lovely young woman named Laura McCormick, who would 10 years later become my wife.
Like many young people escaping the life already planned out for them by going West, I moved to Denver in 2000 to avoid attending medical school. Thanks to my youthful enthusiasm and blissful ignorance, I jumped head first into a life that I knew hardly anything about. My years as an artist often seem like a hopeless struggle to learn how to paint, how to draw, how to think, and how to pay the rent. And often I feel like I have only gone further down the path that I dreaded as a child. However, now I must believe there is redemption, and what you see here are my efforts at earning it.
Article by James Day
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