CCA MFA 2021


Distortion is a photographic series that involves sculpture and performance. I start by creating a sculpture using papier mache and watercolor. The shape of the sculpture grows randomly. I paint the objects with brightly colored dots, creating a language of desire, and confusion. The resulting objects are shared performers dressed in colored tights and they engage with it for the camera. In the resulting photos, the body and the sculpture become equal players, humanity is erased, replaced by color. I use bright colors to bring the sculpture to life. 

Photo of Sculpture, (Paper Mache and Watercolor)


This work is a new experiment for me, because of the epidemic, it is difficult for artists to go for offline exhibitions. So most of the time the way I show my work to others is photos, and another difficulty is that I do not have space to show my work, all the space is in my home. So I decided to use the space at home to make an installation art, and then print it as a photo, and then use watercolor to make a second creation.

I use mushrooms to express the concept of growth in my mind. I recall that my growing process is also a process of exploration and breakthrough. I kept overturning my previous understanding of the world, rethinking and rebuilding my inner world. The mushroom is a representation and hope for me.

Photo of Sculpture, Watercolor

11 in × 18 in

Artist Statement

When I first started working with clay, I was surprised by the plasticity and the variability of the material. It can be molded, shaped, adapted, at least until it is fired. These characteristics are an integral part of my work and a metaphor for my experience of nomadically moving throughout my life. The biggest questions I have faced have been how to fit into my surroundings, into different cultures, languages, and customs.

I was born in China, but have been living in the US, on my own, since high school. I create work to examine the conflict and confusion between eastern and western cultures. I incorporate perspectives of gender, modes of thinking and communication between humans or objects.

My making process involves revisiting memories and rethinking how I have misinterpreted them. I use repetitive elements in my work, polka dots, balls, and color blocks. I often abstract the human body as an element, making vessels or objects. I use highly saturated colors and a variety of materials such as felted wool and fabric to create a contrast between the hard and soft.

The process of making the work gave me the opportunity to think about and reconstruct the differences between different cultures, languages and people. And when they come together, the way all can adapt and reshape.

When we live in a world full of confusion and incomprehension every day, reinvention and rethinking offer new ways of understanding the past.

Xuebei Zeng is a sculptural artist from China, now based in Oakland. She finished her BFA degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2019 and is now studying for her MFA degree at California College of the Arts.

Most of her work is made of ceramic, and she combines it with other soft materials for contrast. Xuebei focuses on the relationship between "misunderstanding" and "rethinking", a concept that she believes has always been influential in both the process of making work and in the construction of the human self. As an international student working with art, she has been using her work to explore the problems and confusions she encounters in her life. Art is a new world for Xuebei, and an escape from the real world.