Arts in Wyoming: Kunlin He Seeks More in the Cowboy State
“Artists are also like scientists,” reflects Kunlin He, an interdisciplinary artist and 2022 Ucross resident, whose work focuses on cultural, political and environmental issues.
“Just like scientists, [artists] must travel so far beyond the limitation of knowledge… That’s the reason that travel is really important for the artist.”
Born in Nanchang, China, He eventually made his way to the Bay Area where he earned his Master’s in Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. After seven years in California, it was an urge to go beyond the limits of his own knowledge and experience that inspired him to look toward Wyoming.
He had never travelled to the heart of the country, never encountered the open range and endless skies of the Cowboy State, and decided it was time to explore further.
“When you live in the city for a long time, you must go to nature… I wanted to check the other regions to make sure I more deeply understood what situation the United States is in right now,” Kunlin said.
He submitted an application to the Ucross Foundation, the Northeast Wyoming arts center surrounded by sprawling landscapes where artists from around the world find refuge from their daily routine to focus and push their work into new territories. In Wyoming, he found the time and space he needed to continue a project commissioned by Meta that explores American politics, while also building on The Colorado, a project focused on a community of Buddhist converts.
“We cannot use a single line to think about people,” Kunlin said, and travel and art both offer the opportunity to experience the unfamiliar, and discover a perspective that might have otherwise seemed impossible to find.
When people view his work, he hopes they “can open [their] minds to thinking about how diverse and how big the world is.”