P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Iris Hu, 2016

MFA, Columbia University

Iris Hu is the child of immigrants from Taiwan

Fellowship awarded to support work towards an MFA in Visual Arts at Columbia University

Iris was born in Los Angeles, California to Chinese-Taiwanese parents. She grew up learning about the traumatic effects of the Chinese Civil War and World War II that her elders experienced and from which they were displaced, which has motivated Iris to share stories of be/longing through her artwork.

To keep her occupied after school while they worked to make a living, Iris’ parents enrolled her in art and music lessons where she realized her creative passion. However, her family internalized a narrow definition of success that privileged practicality and financial stability. Iris never imagined the possibility of being an artist. Yet, creating art seemed to be the only form through which she could make sense of her immediate surroundings and how she saw her changing world.

At UCLA, Iris was drawn to feminist discourse, as she was struck by art that questioned who held power to write history, make images, produce culture and maintain work in the culture sector, and for whom. Iris began creating performance art and colorful, large-scale paintings that reframed the stories of war and displacement through a diasporic feminist lens. At that point, she realized that she was called to make art informed by the marginal experiences of American history and build relationships and creative connections with those embodying related experiences.

After completing an MFA at Columbia University in New York City, Iris moved back to Los Angeles, where she continues to live and work. She describes herself as a journey-based artist and educator who paints, weaves, dyes, writes, and composts her lived reality into installations, public artworks, and intercultural, generational, and geographical collaborations. Central to her work are the building of relationships with people and places through slow and critical reflection, and the uplifting of feeling, sensuality, and beauty. She is interested in how storytelling and working with her hands deepens our relationships to what we experience, with whom we connect, and how we live. She often works in community with friends, artists, poets, scientists, lawyers, keepers of traditions, and organizers to limn possibilities of kinship and co-creation.

Iris’ work has been exhibited extensively, and she has completed public art commissions for California State University, Dominguez Hills; Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA-LA) and Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND); and LA County Department of Mental Health. She is currently working on a multi-year, large-scale public art project for the future UCLA/Westwood Purple Line Metro Station slated to open in 2027. She was recently selected for the internationally recognized artist-in-residence program at Headlands Center for the Arts, and has completed residencies at Vashon Artist Residency, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Carrizozo Artist-in-Residence, and Feminist Center for Creative Work. Her work has been supported by the California Arts Council, Foundation of Contemporary Arts, and the Rema Hort Mann Foundation. She has taught university-level courses at CSU Dominguez Hills, UC Riverside, California Institute of the Arts, and Otis College of Art & Design, and has maintained her coaching work with Los Angeles County classroom teachers at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles since 2013.

  • MFA Visual Arts | Columbia University 2017
  • BA Art, Art History | University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) 2013
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