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Artist Spotlight: Xiaoyan Sun

Xiaoyan Sun is New York-based illustrator whose work focuses on storytelling, healing, and fantasy.

Xiaoyan Sun is New York-based illustrator whose work focuses on storytelling, healing, and fantasy.

How has your lived experience shaped your practice?
My memory is woven with the threads of various cultures. I am a Chinese native who was raised in Romania and later moved to the United States. Having experienced multiple cultural transitions, I have developed the skill to observe the diverse environments around me and integrate messages from different backgrounds.

Viewers frequently find natural elements in my illustrations, which are inspired by the landscapes of Romania, where the joyful moments in my growth originated from its forests and mountains. Another recurring element in my works is people, a special gift sensed from New York.

What are some of your biggest influences and motivations in your work? What issues are you passionate about working on?
I carry a sketchbook with me all the time like a diary capturing the people and things I encounter every day, collecting stories from both my friends and strangers. These narratives include social issues such as war justice, women’s rights, and freedom of speech, as well as personal sufferings of emotional struggles, mental health and family conflicts. Illustration is the bridge connecting me to the world. Each work conveys an independent message, this input and output progress cycles inside my daily life.

Can you tell us more about your focus on community and world building?
The world is not always perfect. Thus I want to craft a moment that belongs to all viewers – a time where we can fully immerse ourselves in the picture, providing the minds with a temporary escape from the complex reality. My illustrations aim to build a wonderland, where fantasy and surreal elements naturally exist. In these works, humans and nature communicate seamlessly and share a peaceful world with various creatures.

Where are you based and what excites you about the creative community around you?
Currently I live and study in New York. This stands as one of the most intricate art communities – a melting pot that embraces cultures and mediums from all countries. In this dynamic environment, art is no longer limited to any specific form or time period. I love spending an afternoon at The Met Cloisters, enjoying the wild landscape and historical artwork collections; or immersing myself in the vibrant world of modern art, engaging with artists from diverse backgrounds at Chelsea’s galleries.

See more of Xiaoyan’s work HERE

What is Settler Colonialism? The Revolution is in 808 What is Green Colonialism? The Black women in my life who bring me joy Exploring mixed musical heritage in collective healing and solidarity What occupying a University building taught me about life Turning waste into beauty Artist Spotlights As a survivor, I need TV to do better Dismantling green colonialism in the belly of the beast