By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Chinese traditional painter Zuwei Chen’s artwork can be found at Café Vida through January 15—but his artistic journey didn’t begin in Pacific Palisades. It dates back over 40 years and began in China.
After moving to China with his family in 1960, Zuwei was given the opportunity to work with and learn from artist, Mai Hanxing . He studied traditional Chinese art and its techniques—specifically those of Ju Lian, a famous painter of the Qing Dynasty.
His daughter, Lavinia Chen, shared that her father paints a large variety of both birds and flowers, whereas most Chinese traditional painters specialize in only one or two. Lavinia added that every single painting is unique, her father never replicates his work.
His intricate paintings gradually gained acclaim and were exhibited in numerous galleries all over the country.
Zuwei then immigrated to the United States with his family in 2012 from Guangzhou, China, after waiting 10 years for approval of their family visa.
When the Chen family immigrated to the United States, Zuwei began cutting fish and his wife worked different jobs—both doing everything they could to support their family.
Just recently he has had the opportunity to exhibit and sell his art again.
When Lavinia was accepted to the Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences’ EMMI program, a renowned high school music program, her senior year, she was granted housing and spent the year living with Palisadians Nancy Seid and Matt Witten.
Seid shared that she learned about Zuwei’s artistry when he gifted her and her husband an extraordinary painting, and his first sale quickly followed.
“He had sold a lot of art in China but didn’t know how he could start selling his art in the United States, his first sales were to friends of ours,” Seid said to the Palisadian-Post.
Since then, Zuwei has become more involved in the art scene, leaving him feeling more integrated and confident. He is currently the vice president of the American Golden Tripod Art Association and a member of the Los Angeles Chinese Art Society.
And it’s because of Lavinia, Seid and Witten that his art hangs on the walls of Café Vida.
Seid shared that she would eat at the Antioch Street spot frequently with her husband and thought of suggesting Zuwei’s art to be displayed there.
Lavinia reached out to the manager with photos of her father’s artwork and he was a fan—Zuwei’s paintings went up on Sunday, December 15.
His paintings will remain on the restaurant’s walls until January 15 and are available for purchase. Seid shared that she hopes the Café Vida exhibit will allow people to continue supporting Zuwei’s artistry.
“It’s not meant to just be an exhibit, all these paintings are for sale,” Seid said. “We hope he gets exposure, the dream is that he won’t have to work at a fish store six days a week—which is what he currently does.”
Seid shared her admiration for the Chen family and the way they support one another. Lavinia manages her father’s sales and is at the forefront of customer interactions because she speaks fluent English.
“They help each other as if they’re one person, they’re a remarkably resilient hardworking family,” Seid said. “It’s a whole family operation, they’re just unbelievable.”
For more information or to purchase a painting, contact Zuwei or Lavinia Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 626-586-0007.
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