Kent State University, Advanced Photography Course, Fall 2022

Yiyun Chen -- live and work in Cleveland
Instagram -- yiyunchen2008
Email --

Yiyun Chen is a Cleveland-based artist whose photographic and photobooks have been exhibited in Wausau MOCA, Zanesville Museum of Art, Ohio University, Indiana University Kokomo, Rochester Institute of Technology, Cleveland State University, Cleveland Institute of Art, Lakeland Community College, San Joaquin Delta College, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Ann Arbor Art Center, Gallery 263 in Cambridge, PH21 gallery in Hungary, and Loosen Art Gallery in Italy, etc. Chen’s works could also be seen as part of the collections in Cleveland Art Association, Mandel Foundation, Rochester Institute of Technology and Cleveland State University.

Chen was born and raised in Guangdong, China, and made his move to the United State when he was 20. As the first generation of Chinese American immigrant, the first job landed him in Asian supermarket and restaurants for living. When it came to those off from work days, he picked up a camera and started taking pictures to explore the areas outside of the chinatown. After a few months of settling into the new country, Chen returned to schools, first to complete his high school diploma. In 2015 he received his Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from Cleveland State University. He was invited into the Post-Baccalaureate Program at Cleveland Institute of Art, where he continued studies in photography and video. In 2018 Chen earned his MFA in photography and related media from Rochester Institute of Technology, where he was also a recipient of the Theodore Chapman and William A. Reedy Endowment Scholarship in support of graduate studies.

The nature of my photographic work, photobooks, and installations deal with experiences as a Chinese immigrant who has lived in the United States for a decade. I was born and raised in Taishan, the largest city in China, home of the majority of Chinese immigrants to the United States. Current works explore the processes of self-reflection and self-discovery and develop the concept of images and text as a language to describe the seemingly unexceptional moments of everyday life. Visualizing the experience as a person navigating different cultures, social expectations, and realities. I realized that I was looking for a picture similar to my superimposition of past and present in the physical world, a conversation between my emotions and reality.

My process for making works comes out of my daily practice of both walking around and photographing unfamiliar places, such as in the streets of small towns and cities, parks, and the interiors of buildings. There is a repetition of motifs throughout most of my work, visualizing the contradiction between the old memories and my current reality. This practice reminds me of my early experiences living in the States. Whenever I had days off from work, I would walk around the Chinatown area, looking at the street lamps, mailboxes, and old confusing posters that were stuck on the walls of the city. Sometimes I would sit in a parking lot or watch TV shows in the laundry. The practice of photographing and thinking are referenced in the concept of boredom as a function of attention, described in Susan Sontag's book As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964–1980. Sontag points out that “most of the interesting art of our time is boring.” Finding something interesting and enjoying the playfulness in its boredom is my process of shooting. I was drawn to this concept of boredom and attention in photography, using it to create a romantic and poetic communication of my inner meditations.

2018 -- MFA, Photography and Related Media, Rochester Institute of Technology
2015 -- Post-Bacc, Photography and Video, Cleveland Institute of Art 
2015 -- BA, Studio Art Photography, Cleveland State University 

2023 -- Biennial: Image as Object, Ohio University, Athens, OH
2022 -- Faculty Exhibition, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH
2022 -- Visual Arts Faculty Exhibition, Lakeland Community College, Kirtland, OH 
2022 -- Impagination, Heights Arts, Cleveland, OH
2022-- The 76th Ohio Annual Exhibition, Zanesville Museum of Art, Zanesville, OH
2022 -- Sharing Space, Ann Arbor Art Center, Ann Arbor, MI
2022 -- Tip of the Tongue, Gallery 263, Cambridge, MA
2021 -- Asian American Art Exhibit, Findlay Art League, Findlay, OH
2021 -- Reimagining Hope, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Denver, CO
2021 -- Vividness, Downtown Gallery, Indiana University Kokomo, Kokomo, IN
2021 -- Distinguished Alumni Exhibition, The Galleries at CSU, Cleveland, OH
2019 -- BOUND Art Book + Zine Fair, MOCA Cleveland, Cleveland, OH
2018 -- Terra Incognita, MFA Thesis Exhibition, William Harris Gallery, Rochester, NY
2017 -- The 1st Annual 2017 National Juried Art Exhibition, Wausau MOCA, Wausau, WI
2017 -- LoosenArt Collective, LoosenArt Gallery, Rome, Italy
2017 -- TURN UP II: The Alma Mater Edition, Popeye Gallery, Cleveland, OH
2016 -- SPAS Honors Show, William Harris Gallery, Rochester, NY
2016 -- MFA Work Share, William Harris Gallery, Rochester, NY
2016 -- CO-LAB, Gallery R, Rochester, NY
2017 -- The Same But Different, New York Center for Photographic Art, New York, NY
2016 -- The self(ie) and the other: portraiture, PH21 Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
2014 and 2015 -- Merit Scholar Exhibition, The Galleries at CSU, Cleveland, OH
2013 to 2015 -- The Student Art Show, The Galleries at CSU, Cleveland, OH
2012 to 2015-- The 21st People’s Art Show, The Galleries at CSU, Cleveland, OH
2014 -- Western Reserve Photo Competition, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cleveland, OH
2013 -- Spotlight: Emerging Photographers, Cleveland Print Room, Cleveland, OH
2012 -- Street Photography, San Joaquin Delta College, Stockton, CA

Grants and Fellowships (Selected)
2021 -- Besse Excellence in Teaching Award, Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, OH
2021 -- Best of Show, Asian American Art Exhibit, Findlay Art League, Findlay, OH
2020 -- Emergency Relief Grant, Spaces, Cleveland, OH
2017 and 2018 -- William A. Reedy Endowed Scholarship, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
2016 to 2018 -- Theodore Chapman Graduate Scholarship, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
2016 and 2017 -- Honorable Mention, International Photography Awards, Los Angeles, CA
2016 -- Third Place Winner, The Same But Different, New York Center for Photographic Art, New York, NY
2015 -- Full Scholarship, CSU-CIA Post-Bacc Program, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH
2015 -- Honorable Mention, The 44th Student Art Show, The Galleries at CSU, Cleveland, OH
2015 -- Honorable Mention, The 35th Annual Best of College Photography, Santa Barbara, CA
2013 and 2014 -- Visual Art Merit Scholarship, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH
2011 to 2015 -- Radiance Scholarship, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH
2010 -- Mayor Frank G. Jackson Scholarship, Cleveland City Hall, Cleveland, OH

Cleveland Art Association, Cleveland, OH
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
Mandel Foundation, Cleveland OH
Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH

Artist Talks and Presentations
2019 -- Artist Talk, Photo II/III, Department of Art and Design, Cleveland State University
2018 -- Photobook and Installation, Advanced Digital Projects, Cleveland Institute of Art

Professional and Teaching Experience
Kent State University
Cuyahoga Community College
Lakeland Community College
Cleveland Institute of Art
Rochester Institute of Technology
Center For Arts-Inspired Learning
William Harris Gallery
Fast Ashleys Studio
Velley Magazine
Insidebusiness Magazine
Lorain County’s Magazine
Cleveland Magazine
Capa Magazine

Professional Memberships
Chinese American Art Faculty Association, Wayne, NJ
Spaces, Cleveland, OH
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
George Eastman Museum of Art, Rochester, NY
Graduate Photography Association, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY