Lin Wei graduated from Qufu Normal University in December of 1981, then stayed on there as a teaching assistant. The following year she read an article in an art publication about a woman graduate student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Her name was Hung Liu. She was painting a large mural on campus. Lin Wei was thrilled to see a woman producing such monumental art. She wrote to Hung Liu. Hung Liu wrote back, and so began a friendship that would prove to be fortuitous.
Now, back in her own hometown, Lin Wei was being pressured from her superiors, her colleagues and her community to get married.
"Settling down was the most comfortable path to take, but it lead away from a life in art. In the summer of 1983, in a panic, I set off alone by train on a pilgrimage to Xin Jiang in the far west of China. Many artists before me had gone there in search of inspiration amongst the various ethnic minorities and in the Caves of Dun Huang.
“On the walls and ceilings of these caves were murals that were produced over centuries by anonymous Chinese artists. Modern artists were now making pilgrimages to the murals of Dun Huang. We went to connect to our past. We marveled at the variety of styles to be found in the ancient paintings. We also accidentally found works that shared much in common with what we recognized as the European Baroque and Rococo. We even found elements that we had only identified with such modern European masters as Picasso and Matisse.
“Since all these works were indisputably Chinese, we young Chinese artists felt free to borrow from them. After years of national emergencies we found in the murals the authority to stray from the orthodoxies of both pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary China."
That summer Lin Wei produced fifty oil paintings of individuals from ethnic minorities in Xin Jiang. With them she mounted her first solo exhibition. She received an enthusiastic response from the young artists and students who attended, and harsh criticism from some traditionalists.
This criticism was the push that Lin Wei needed to break the bonds of her hometown and move on to Beijing Normal University to initiate her graduate studies. In her second year at Beijing Normal University, she was selected to be the 1985 enrollee from Shandong Province to be admitted to the masters program of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China’s premier art institute.
This was the time of the ’85 Fine Arts Movement. Painters in this movement considered themselves to be the vanguard of artistic freedom. Nowhere did this movement take hold more than at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.
"My own part in the ’85 Fine Arts Movement was to develop a style of painting to express loneliness and desolation. One of my most eminent professors challenged me for expressing such negative emotions. This professor had studied and worked in Europe and spoke at least four languages. He was not a narrow traditionalist. With a lesser teacher, and in a lesser art school, I might have been forced to submit to his advise. But at the Central Academy of Fine Arts I was allowed to engage my teacher in a protracted struggle. From this struggle, I emerged a better painter and a grateful student."
For the Graduation Exhibition of the 1987 Advanced Course, Lin Wei’s teachers chose nine of her paintings. There were four heavy female nudes that evidenced her technical mastery according to universally accepted standards. The other five provoked some very enthusiastic response in critical and academic circles.
This series was titled, Author and Works. Each painting depicted a woman artist in the throes of internal conflict. "I was becoming aware of how my relationship with my work was almost mutual. In these paintings I first began to express this dynamic: the work is projecting itself emotionally back onto the artist.” This public portrayal of an individual’s conflict and psychological complexity was, in the context of the times in China, revolutionary.
On the strength of these paintings, the Shandong Art Institute (Now the Shandong University of Arts), in the provincial capital of Jinan, opened a lecturer’s position for Lin Wei and gave her the task of setting up a studio for “modern art” in the institute.
Later in 1987, Lin Wei presented Journey at the First National Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition which opened at the Shanghai Museum of Art. Journey depicts a woman lying reclined upon the back of a large moving mountain lion. This mountain lion plays an important role in many of Lin Wei’s more emotional works.
During her twelve years at the Shandong Art Institute, Lin Wei continued an exploration of the female psyche with a style that was soon recognized as her own.
While on the faculty of the Shandong Art Institute, Lin Wei exhibited commercially at the Shenzhen Art Gallery, the Singapore Art Gallery, and The 13 Art Gallery of Hong Kong, with which she entered into contract in 1991.
Hung Liu, the artist that Lin Wei had so admired, was now teaching at Mills College in Oakland. At Hung Liu’s invitation, Lin Wei flew to Oakland, California in November of 1993 to deliver a lecture
at Mills titled "Contemporary Chinese Women Artists in the People’s Republic of China". In January of 1994 she delivered the same lecture at UC Davis.
Soon after, Lin Wei decided to stay in the United States. In this period of transition from one country to another, Lin Wei began integrating herself and her art into both the commercial and the cultural life of her new community. She soon met and married a San Francisco teacher and artist.
In June of 1996, under the title Whispering Shandong, Lin Wei presented twenty-three oil paintings at Styler’s Art Gallery in San Francisco.
In November and December of 1998, she collaborated with three other Chinese women painters at the Community Arts Gallery in San Francisco’s Chinatown with a showing of four oils.
Twice in the year 2000, the Women’s Resource Center and other organizations of City College of San Francisco invited Lin Wei to deliver slide lectures on the subject of women painters in China. She then exhibited selected paintings at the library gallery of CCSF as part of Asian cultural celebrations.
In 2001 the Women’s Resource Center of City College of San Francisco commissioned her to paint a mural in their office that featured portraits of the twelve founders of the center. It was dedicated in 2002.
In 2003 Lin Wei published Journal Entries, Wei Lin Discovers America, a book of annotated drawings that portray, in scenes real and imagined, the unfolding of her first ten years in America.
From 2000 to 2009, Lin Wei worked as a computer graphics designer and illustrator for a major engineering firm in San Francisco.
In 2007 she founded Asian Arts Studio, an afternoon and weekend art school for children and youth. Since then she has developed a sizable and supportive following of young art students and families from all over the San Francisco Bay Area. The school is now called Asian Arts School, LLC.
In 2014, in collaboration with designer Rodrigo Mayorga, Lin Wei wrote and illustrated a drawing book for her youngest students titled Drawing Instruction Book - Step by Step for Level 1A.
In 2017, Lin Wei had the honor of participating in “With Liberty and Justice for Some”, a series of exhibitions dedicated to immigrants to America and their contributions to American society. It featured 8”X 8” portraits of individual immigrants. The exhibition was presented in three locations in California as it grew in size. Lin Wei exhibited seven portraits: two of herself, two of novelist Geling Yan, and three of painter Hung Liu.
January 7 to March 4, 2017, 1 portrait, "With Liberty and Justice for Some”, Walter Maciel Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
March 25 to April 8, 2017, 1 portrait, "With Liberty and Justice for Some”, San Francisco Art Council Galleries, San Francisco, CA
- September 23 to October 8, 2017, 6 portraits, ”With Liberty and Justice for Some”, Berkeley
Art Center Gallery, Berkeley, CA
In 2018, Lin Wei’s entry for the “World of Frida” exhibition, was selected for the Walnut Creek showing and the National Tour.
July 8 to September 8, 2018, Frida in my Imagination, “World of Frida” exhibition, Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA
2019 to 2022, Frida in my Imagination, National Tour of “World of Frida”, Multiple U.S. Locations
November 3 to 25, 2018, 31 works by Lin Wei as part of San Francisco Open Studio and "Asian Arts School Teachers and Students Painting Exhibition”, San Francisco Asian Art School Exhibition Hall, San Francisco
Lin Wei continues to paint what her vision dictates.
Lin Wei was born in Shandong, China, and raised in Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, where the mansions of his descendants remain today as museums. In Lin Wei’s childhood these mansions were in ruins and served as her haunted playgrounds.
Qufu Normal University was her home. Her father taught philosophy and her mother taught chemistry in the campus high school. When Lin Wei was a toddler her mother would bring home bits of chalk. These were hard times in China; the walls of her family’s apartment and the hallways of her residential block were unadorned concrete. With her chalk, Lin Wei decorated these drab surfaces with the likenesses of wild animals, jungles, clouds, suns and little girls.
Lin Wei’s grammar school and high school teachers always put her in charge of the bulletin board decorations. This became an increasingly important job for her in the third grade when Mao Zedong declared the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and fomented a decade-long civil war that was fought out in every dimension of Chinese life.
In high school, Lin Wei chose art as her major. Aside from her art-class exercises, Lin Wei created drawings that depicted real and imagined scenes of student life in Qufu.
After high school Lin Wei was sent to the countryside in accordance with Mao’s directive to send all urban youth after high school to collective farms to work with and learn from the peasants.
At Dong Yen Workers Unit, Lin Wei did farm work, bookkeeping, and maintained the collective farm’s bulletin board. She loved the nights and the rainy days when she could refine the sketches of peasant life that she had made during the day.
Mao Zedong died late in Lin Wei’s second year in the countryside. Soon the young city people there were permitted to take entrance exams for various universities. Lin Wei passed the exams that brought her back to Qufu Normal University as an art student.
"I had been out of school for almost two years, but some of my fellow students had been in the countryside for much longer. I was so lucky to be studying side by side with students who were older, wiser and more experienced than I."
Like most universities at this time, Qufu Normal was waking from a sleep of ten years. In order to invigorate its art program, it invited working artists to join its teaching staff.
Lin Wei remembers: ”One of these teachers was a greatly respected painter and sculptor. Under his tutelage I made real progress toward mastery in the depiction of the human form in motion. He would say, ‘You are too good an artist to be a woman.’ and ‘It is too bad that you are a woman.’ These were meant to be compliments, but ones that told me that my sex would be an obstacle to my ultimate objective."