Small shop owner and President of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Heidi Peng discusses the long and documented journey of her art career, starting with her roots in IU and expanding on how her Asian-American heritage has shaped parts of her career.
Tell me about your art journey, and how you’ve managed to open up your small shop!
So I actually joined IU as a psychology major— that was my direct admit— and then in the spring semester, I applied for the BFA graphic design program and got in! So I added studio art as a second degree. Since then, I’ve been moving from typography to production, and I’m now in my BFA seminar class that we’re all taking. I feel like it’s been a standard journey of growing my portfolio, and I’ve been chronicling all my art on my portfolio website since I was a freshman. This semester was definitely my most hectic semester, because I also put on an exhibition for myself. I’ve had my shop open since last year, and that was just on a whim to try it out and see what happens. We have so much work that we’re making, I thought it was worth trying to sell it. A lot of my work focuses on my Asian-American identity, it’s probably most important, and I’ve done a project regarding that Asian identity aspect since sophomore year. Of course, last semester I put on an exhibition, which was a culmination of personal projects that I worked on that included a book that I wrote on my personal experiences. This all really keeps me involved within the design community.
Could you tell me about your work in your recent exhibition, and what processes went into that?
In fall 2021, I wrote a book for my BFA independent project. It was focused on my life and my feelings, and contained photography and written autobiographical stories. It also has illustrations, comics... it was this huge endeavor. I didn’t like it being a single book, so this semester I put on an exhibition where you could listen to the audiobook, and you could sign up to preorder the book since I was still working to publish it. On the walls, I displayed the photographs and illustrations for everyone to see. I don’t want to undersell it— it was definitely your standard exhibition, but it did have just my work up there for everyone to see. It was a lot like a thesis.
Congratulations for this exhibition and joining Themester! Based on your previous work, what shaped the piece you made for Themester?
When I first heard the theme, Identity and Identification, I thought "wow, this’ll be interesting for me to explore because I’ve already done so much work for it," so because I’m entering my final years of design I wanted to try some things that I haven’t done before. My initial ideas were incredibly dark imagery, channeling this darker theme and the dysfunction that comes from identity. After the first critique, I thought about making something more friendly for everyone to see. So then I decided to make a concept that identity is unique, yes, but it’s also like a hivemind. That’s where the apartment complex came from; even though we are different, there’s many ways in which we are the same and there’s also this conformity aspect where we try to act in a similar way. So when we look from afar, it’s all almost the same. Every single room is the same, and there are seven rooms that have been altered ever so slightly. So there’s lights in some, plants in others, and it’s like, yes, if you look very close you can see the differences and subtle nuances in society. To stick with the darker theme I originally wanted, I added some details in the apartment complexes. There’s one room in which there’s a murder— a bloodspill from the door, actually. That only appears in the night version, though, since there’s a day and night animation.