Born in Shanghai and based in New York, illustrator Xinmei Liu combines her love of satire with her interest in vintage Chinese art movements. “Vintage design from Shanghai is always an inspiration,” she notes, “including ad posters from the 1930s and packaging design from the ’80s and ’90s [for] their use of color and the way type integrates with imagery.” After receiving a BFA in communications design from the Pratt Institute in New York, Liu returned to her hometown, where she took illustration commissions while working at several art-related odd jobs. “That lasted for two years before I started graduate school and got an MFA [in illustration] from the School of Visual Arts and began my ‘serious’ freelance career,” she explains before joking: “In short, I never had a ‘real job’ that would make Asian parents proud.” Liu’s sense of humor translates well to her work; for clients like Foreign Policy, NBC News and the New York Times, she uncovers varied perspectives on each subject to better represent the truth, finding satire an effective tool to convey that. “When I start on an editorial piece, I write down key phrases or concepts,” Liu says. “Usually, there is some conflict between something, such as ‘individual values versus expectations from the system’ or ‘harsh COVID lockdowns versus necessary economic activities.’ I come up with visual metaphors for these contradictory concepts and put them in some kind of juxtaposition. Of course, not all art needs to make a statement, but figuring out how to send an engaging message is what I enjoy about the job.”
A passion for cleanliness, natural light and new perspectives informs this Mexico City–based photographer’s artistic vision.