ART IS... Xee Reiter
Xee Reiter began her infatuation with art in grade school and it has since remained an intrinsic part of her creative life. Her eclectic style ranges from lettering and calligraphy to line illustrations and painting, using various mediums. As a first generation Hmong American, her cultural roots can be found in some of her work.
(cheerful, upbeat music)
- When I first moved here,
I didn't have a sense of community
because I didn't have family here
and when I discovered Hmongtown,
I was there three or four times a week
because the food felt like home to me.
I love just looking at all their things,
all, like their collection of fabric,
just like the intricate way
that they would make the traditional clothes
that you wouldn't even start to fathom.
Two years ago, I started a little journalism,
like an illustrated journalism project
where I would go and just sit there
and illustrate like a Hmong chef or a seamstress
or someone who's cooking at a food vendor.
Just started compiling these things
and you know, eventually have conversations
with them to kind of get their story on
hey, you know, do you love what you do
and why do you do what you do?
My name is Xee Reiter.
I am a visual artist.
I am Hmong American, first generation.
I work with watercolor,
pen and ink, acrylic, oil,
I've done polymer clay, embroidery,
all over the board, I do a little of everything.
So this is just kind of a random sketchbook that I have.
I always like to default to faces
and this is influenced by Hmong traditional clothing
which is the sash instead of like the whole outfit.
The earliest memory of drawing
was when I was in kindergarten.
My favorite subject to illustrate
would always be people 'cause I was always so curious,
I was always that introverted kid in the corner
while everyone's off playing.
This is of Hmong women, you can tell.
Just by her facial features.
Six or seven years ago, I decided
to focus entirely on just Asian women faces
and, you know, what it means to be Asian American,
what does it mean to go back to your roots
and incorporate some of those things into your work?
You know, once I stopped thinking
about who my audience is gonna be,
I started drawing and creating more visceral work
that is actually meaningful to me as an artist.
And sometimes when I read books,
I like to sketch out what I think
the characters look like 'cause I love reading too.
And a lot of these images are just from my mind,
versus using a reference.
I like to capture expressions, facial,
especially when I'm doing portraits.
I was heavily influenced by MAD Magazine
(Xee laughing) as a kid, and I still am.
I just love all the different styles
and you know, I feel like
when I navigate through the landscape of art,
I'm a nomad, I don't stay in one place for too long.
I don't wanna become complacent.
So one day, I'll be drawing cartoons and caricatures.
The next day, I'm drawing fashion renderings
and focusing in on textiles and design.
I'm kind of all over the board,
we really don't know what Hmong art is, you know?
I mean, some people would define it by the embroidery,
some would say oh, if it doesn't have anything to do
with Hmong traditionally, then it's not Hmong.
And so I try to define that a little bit
by saying hey, you know what, I am Hmong
and the kind of art I make is Hmong
because that's who I am.
I dream a lot and I try to create.
What if I can just pretend like I can make my own cookbook?
And so this one I dedicated to Hmong cooking
but I entitled it, Noj Qab Nyob Zoo
which is the way that we greet each other
and it translates to, eat good, live well.
I mean, you draw what you know
and it becomes who you are too,
and so, you know, it goes along
with the chicken and the egg, like which came first?
Am I creating my art based on what I love
or is it because I love it and that I'm illustrating it?
I even put a discretion here.
It says, warning: explicit content
because it involves how to process the chicken.
We have chickens, we garden.
Just recently I started researching herbs
and, you know, the Hmong herbs
that I would get from Hmongtown
that I would plant in my garden
and I grew up with these herbs
but I've never known the proper name.
This one is called gandia
and it turns your broth pinkish
but that's why you don't wanna throw too many in.
But I do illustrate a lot of food,
you know, just whatever I feel like.
(Xee laughing) But I would say,
it is heavily influenced
on the things that are familiar to me.
(cheery, upbeat music)
The biggest project I've ever worked on
was a collaborative mural located
on Fourth and Jackson in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The subjects that we painted were based on Hmong influences
and we picked a symbol that was meaningful to us.
And so I picked the bee and I picked opium flowers.
There's a gift of being able to
illustrate your thoughts and your feelings.
I'd like to think that people can,
you know, look at my art and try to understand
the person that I am or accept that
that's just me, that's a part of me
and there's really no explaining.
(Xee laughing) You know?
(upbeat, inspirational music)