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By Grace Xie

Age Group: High School

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My grandpa had always been fond of ink paintings. He would often refer to them as "harmonious portrayals of culture and expression"—a medley between two parts of one's identity. With a lift of the wrist and a stroke of a brush, he could create heartfelt images, both genuine and breathtaking. My grandpa would spend hours pouring his soul into his paintings, illustrating every grain of emotion. Following his recent passing, I vowed to do the same. 
"Enxi", he would call my name as he tried to get my attention. My grandpa would then point to the many ink paintings he had made. "See this? When I finish teaching you how to hold a brush, and once you are old enough to avoid getting ink on your clothes, this is what you'll be able to create." He took pride in his art: fierce tigers constructed of black smears, bamboo shoots sprung from grey blobs, and quaint sparrows fabricated from thin lines. They were art forged from the framework of our Chinese heritage. My favorite was a long scroll brimming with feathered mountains and crisp cherry blossoms. It was a depiction of the scenery my grandfather saw back when he was a child. He told me how he spent hours perfecting the way the ink strokes dissipated, wanting to render the vision in his mind. Up in the corner, the painting was marked with three Chinese characters. "My name," he would say, "for this painting is both my identity and my creation."
He passed away this year. I went through a stage of sorrow, not knowing what to do with myself and wishing I had spent more time with him. With the limited photos I had of my grandpa and his drawings all tucked away in China, I found myself in need of his presence. I pined for a physical memory to hold on to in hopes that it could wash away my grief. And so, pouring out my soul, I created art. I poured out my anguish, my yearning, my dejection. I poured out my anger for his absence, and I poured out my longing for his memory. I carved and feathered and scraped and brushed until I finally understood. My artwork—formed from my Chinese culture, expressed with my current emotions, and portrayed by my personalized identity—wasn't only a material object. Speckled with the remnants of my grief and the essence of my character, it was my creation.
I then added my final details: "Xie Enxi".

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