Orange peel, horsehair and porcelain are just some of the materials Xia Zhang uses to create her multifaceted art pieces. Along with video and print imagery, they tell a complicated story influenced by the experiences of a Chinese-born American woman.

Zhang’s exhibition “Skin Piece” will open on Thursday, Oct. 3, in Pannell Gallery at Sweet Briar College. An artist’s talk at 5 p.m. in Benedict Hall will precede the opening reception at 6 p.m. in Pannell Gallery. Both events are free and open to the public.

“Unlearning the past self through repetitive processes has been a personal liberation that has led me to further understand the present,” Zhang wrote in her artist’s statement. “As an immigrant woman of color, we are constantly expected to labor complacently and silently, to ‘pull ourselves up from the bootstraps’ in order to achieve the American Dream that was never designed for us.”

A multidisciplinary visual artist born in southern China, Zhang grew up in suburban Maryland and came into adulthood in Appalachia. Since 2012, she has exhibited in China, Thailand and also nationally. With “Skin Piece,” Zhang said she is trying to “unpack expectations and misrepresentations that have gone on to perpetuate cycles of white toxicity.”

The hair she is using suggests a “recurring level of discomfort with identity and ideals of femininity,” and she intentionally employs traditional methods such as sewing, weaving and pinching clay that are “perceived to be women’s craft,” she adds.

“Alongside these materials and objects that reference physical time and labor, I incorporate video and photography into my work to record metaphorical actions,” Zhang said in a press release. “My practice has turned into a ritualistic habit, hoping to find ways in which to dismantle this skin hierarchy.”

Pannell Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday or by appointment. For more information, email Associate Director of Galleries and Museum Shawn O’Connor at

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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