Art and Activism: Shannon Zheng

Shannon Zheng is a sophomore at the University of Michigan studying Art & Design and Philosophy. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, a hub known for its creative culture. However, Shannon says that “the high school I went to was not diverse, and other high schools around me were really competitive, so that influences the depressing themes in my art. That environment pushed me.” In addition to exploring goriness, the grotesque, and the “dark side of everyday experiences,” she also makes work about activist causes. She says, “I care a lot about animals and justice in general. I’m always ready to fight.”

Additionally, Shannon’s open-minded view of art encourages her to explore new mediums and themes, like watercolor, ink, and digital illustration. To her, art is constantly changing. “Art is anything that effectively evokes some kind of visceral reaction, and new art broadens my perspectives.” She also spent hours of her childhood poring over different books, such as Roald Dahl stories illustrated by Quentin Blake, whose sense of whimsy and playfulness left an impression on Shannon. Other illustrators like Molly Crabapple, who focuses on justice for communities such as immigrants and sex workers, inspire Shannon as well. “I think she has an interesting style that combines well with journalism.”

One of Shannon’s favorite works is a mixed media painting titled In a Pickle, Out of a Jam. Painted in her senior year of high school, she explains that it is a self portrait that expresses her uncomfortable emotions. Shannon says, “I felt like a pickle–isolated and alone. But I’m still growing into that artistic persona.”

In the future, Shannon sees herself as some kind of illustrator or perhaps going into academia and becoming a professor. But, she boldly states, “I hate kids.”

Clearly, Shannon is a talented and multi-faceted artist intrigued by the complexities of life. I can’t wait to see where her work goes next. Shannon’s Instagram!



In a Pickle, Out of a Jam


Felis Flytrap


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Student at the University of Michigan studying Art & Design and Communication & Media, hoping to create meaningful design for social impact. Every week I highlight an intriguing artist (or group of artists)!

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