A World Tour in a Glass with Jing Zhang
Did you know that you can tour Europe in a single martini glass? Take some dry gin from London, toss in a bit of vermouth from France, and drop in an Italian olive or two and you have the perfect martini filled with the gifts of three different European countries. But it doesn’t stop there: Sangria made of European wines with fruit from the Americas and Australia gets you to two hemispheres. That Sazerac that drips of New Orleans’ spirit has a twist of Florida orange peel hanging off its side. Every cocktail is a voyage, and no one knows that better than Jing Zhang who has taken these little trips and turned them into illustrated compositions that bring it all to life.
Jing's "Classic Cocktail Recipes" is a series of six different illustrations that illuminate the ingredients and provenance of each element of beloved drinks: the Moscow Mule, the Bellini, the Martini, the Singapore Sling, the Sazerac, and Sangria. It's easy to remember each of these mixtures from a dinner in a friend's backyard or a late night at a steamy bar, but they are messages from other places and times. A cocktail recipe, like any other recipe, is a function of the community that bore it: it's cobbled together from every tasty thing within arm reach – and just as often things that aren't tasty. They're blended together into the perfect balance to make a beverage that tastes as good as it makes you feel.
Jing uses her signature architectural style to create impossible realities in which an olive orchard is perched on top of a martini glass, or 16th century Russian architecture fits inside a copper mug. But by combining each of these impossibilities, Jing opens our eyes and our minds to see what's swirling around in our glasses for the first time. So, cheers! And don't forget: there's more where that came from.
Jing Zhang Shows Us the Future of Staten Island
Considered the “most suburban” borough of New York City, Staten Island also happens to be more than twice the size of Manhattan, the busier island that gets all the attention. But Staten Island is working to change that. The “Destination St George” initiative, a $1.2 investment to bring shopping, entertainment, and cultural institutions into one place, is set to make Staten Island a new kind of destination for more than just the curious explorers. Plus they’re building a gigantic Ferris wheel. But what good is the investment if no one knows about it? Jing Zhang was brought on board to help create an image for the marketing campaign surrounding the project, and it’s a dream come true.
The image that took Jing four months to create depicts a north shore of Staten Island that has come together in a new bustling version of perfection. It shows the famous Staten Island Ferry gliding past the Statue of Liberty with riders on their way to shopping and the theater or a baseball game and gallery. Shoppers commune on the beach under the sweeping Ferris wheel that will dominate the Staten Island skyline. Beyond the north shore is the lush green of the island with picnickers, photographers and maybe even a dragon to slay, or sing to.
To many, New York City is the capital of the world, and Staten Island is a big part of the city even if the casual tourist never gets there. “Destination St George” is set to change that, but the only way that change can come is if the world knows about it. So that’s exactly where Jing’s illustration is going: all over the world. Already the ad is posted in Manhattan, but it’s also been spotted in China, Germany, and the UK, with more worldwide stops to come. The shopping center isn’t set to open in St George until next year, and the Ferris wheel that summer, but for now we can revel in the beauty of the future thanks to Jing’s gorgeous illustration.
Jing Zhang Offers a Piece of Utopia
A life is a reach towards utopia in many ways. The perfect world can be built around you, even if just piece-by-piece and even if the utopia doesn’t extend outside the walls of your home. But depending on who you are and what your dreams are, your utopia could be on the other side of tomorrow. Jing Zhang took it upon herself to imagine what a utopia could look like in her series ‘Utopia Dwelling’ that imagines a handful of homes perfectly suited for a variety of utopias. “I had a trip to New Zealand visiting Hobbiton [the hometown of the Hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’]. I had the idea it would be great to see them being modernized for living,” Jing explains. “Other inspirations include 'Howl's Moving Castle,' lots of architecture, and tree houses. When I was kid I'd like drawing crazy fun houses.” That childhood exploration has now become a full-fledged visual study.
The meaning of ‘utopia’ is not only different from person to person but it can change over time. Where a world of ice cream might have sounded awesome as a kid, it might scare adults who are now lactose intolerant. Jing’s own idea of utopia has shifted since she was a child, putting more focus on sustainability. “Instead of childhood fun houses, my idea of Utopia nowadays is more towards self-sufficiency and self-functioning, without being powered by fuel, or relying on extra sources,” she says. “The sub-marine house is perhaps the closest model to the idealism I have in mind. We could fully utilize the power of mother nature.” It’s all about harmony.
It seems like the world outside our doors is getting scarier and scarier, so perhaps the best place to retreat isn’t just a utopia, but into the boundless imaginations inside of us all. “Joy and whimsy keep us refreshed and constantly inspired,” she says. “There is too much branding in our creative industry that we often forget about the fun part of creative process. And it is therapeutic to create with my own imagination.” Our best utopia is possibility and in ‘Utopia Dwellings’ Jing offers us a whole selection of possibility to build on.
Jing Zhang Uses Maps to Show Us So Much More
Maps are amazing. They do two things. They take what we know about a place and fit it together into the mere geography of a place. Its history. Its people. Its heritage. They all show themselves on a flat drawing with landmarks and roads. At the same time they also reveal everything we don't know. Potential. Secrets. The hidden lost from those who tell historical tales. Map drawers have the unenviable position of taking everything that is known and everything that is unknown and putting it all into one place to represent a country, a people, a culture. Traditionally, all these elements are brought together into maps that feature mostly roads, topographies, and some landmarks. But artist Jing Zhang is going further. In her series, “Maps of Asia,” she uses topography and landmarks as the base to show something about the culture she experiences. “I've spent four exhilarating months this year visiting the biggest village on earth, the Global Village, traveling eastbound around the world with numerous interesting stops,” she explains. Her voyage has taken her to nearly a dozen cities and she’s captured each of them in their own unique way.
“Every city has its own color palette, flavor, sound, and personality,” she explains. “The differences between our cultures is what makes our cities so wonderful.” Those differences is exactly what she highlights in this series, and why Nagiso looks so different from Seoul which looks so different from Hanoi. We already know that each of these cities is in a different country, but it’s the cultures that demand how a city is built, it’s time and people that shape how a city grows. Jing captures all those elements in her signature clean style so that we understand these places even if we can’t tell where the nearest Starbucks is.
As an enriching element, Jing has also created a series of GIFs that illustrate ephemeral moments from being in these cities. Where it’s the sleepless effort happening in a series of office buildings, the serenity of wind whipping through some trees, or the churning of a water wheel on a coastal residence, we are offered our own little visit to these otherwise inaccessible places.