2021 Engineering and College graduate Rosa Sun covered a local Chinese food truck in Chinese paintings for her senior seminar project.
Sun’s goal is to educate the Penn community about Chinese customs and expand the American perception of Chinese culture through art. To complete the project, entitled “Each Other,” Sun partnered with the owner of Kim’s Oriental Foods, which is parked on campus, and the Feng Zikai International Cultural Association in Hong Kong, painting three of Chinese artist Feng Zikai’s pieces on the food truck.
To learn more about the paintings, the artist, and the owners of the food truck, Kim’s Oriental Foods’ customers can scan a QR code on the truck.
Kim’s Oriental Foods has stood in University City for decades and is currently owned by Chinese immigrants. As part of her project, Sun worked to empower and build a relationship with the owners by recreating Feng's art.
Sun worked with the owners to select paintings that would further visitors’ understandings of Chinese culture and be fitting for a food truck, such as paintings that featured meals.
Feng, who lived from 1898 to 1975, is known for his humanistic representations of Chinese culture and daily life. Sun said she admired Feng because he created art about peace during the violent Cultural Revolution.
“On top of everything, [Feng] decided to focus his art around things that are peaceful, what he sees to be positive in everyday life,” Sun said.
She compared the context of his work to the recent rise in anti-Asian hate in the United States, adding that it brings a greater sense of urgency to her project.
“I think it is relevant to us now because we are in a period where Asian hate is more talked about and is more acted upon by certain extremists,” Sun said. “We are in a period of unrest, and that in itself is a parallel to the time that he was living in, but he was still able to see the good sides of people and to bring that out in his artwork.”
Sun also chose to highlight Feng's work, which depicts day-to-day social interactions that are a part of Chinese culture, to challenge “the fear of the unknown,” which she said contributes to Asian hate.
“I think a lot of the information that we get about Asia, not just China, is very limited, very political, and it’s often negative,” she said. “The things that are relatively non-political about the culture are not really things of interest to the media. I really wanted to bring attention to that part of Chinese culture because I think it’s an essential part of history.”
Sun completed the project for FNAR 489: Senior Seminar Project (Spring), a required course for fine arts and design students.
Senior Fine Arts and Design lecturer Ivanco Talevski, who teaches the course alongside Fine Arts and Design lecturer Kayla Romberger, described it as an exploration of studio work, research, and professional development that involves making, documenting, and writing about artistic projects.
Students are encouraged to pursue their own interests with guidance from Talevski and Romberger.
Talevski commended Sun's eagerness to go to the food truck daily or weekly and build a relationship with the employees. He added that Sun's project was inspiring because it shed light on the plight of a marginalized group.
“[Sun’s project is useful for] thinking about the representation of a particular history and people that are presently here with us, among us, or have been for decades, whose stories we don’t hear,” he said.