Ivy Jiao: Biology and Studio Art

Ivy Jiao: Biology and Studio Art

Ivy Jiao is originally from Beijing, China, and decided to come to Wake Forest after a college representative visited her high school. The Admissions officer gave an info session, which sparked her interest. Jiao was impressed that a small school from North Carolina had come all the way to China. 

Jiao had always intended on taking the pre-med track, but after taking Introduction to Oil Painting in the spring of her freshman year, she realized she wanted to balance both her interest in art and science. 

Jiao was never formally trained in art, but used it as an outlet for expression. While in middle school, Jiao had been a victim of bullying, but felt that no one around her, including school counselors, really understood that struggle. So for the final project in that same Oil Painting class, where students were tasked with painting an abstract location, she chose her middle school. As everyone in the class showed off their work, the professor had the students guess the location based on the emotion shown. When they reached her painting, Jiao says that everyone immediately identified the emotions that she had been struggling to express. It was at that moment that she felt people finally understood what she felt, without her having to explain it to them. It was this experience that solidified her interest in double majoring. 

Her time at Wake Forest was spent balancing her two interests, and at every opportunity combining them. Through working for professor Gloria Muday in her lab, Jiao had the opportunity to work on a lot of digitizing, and even gave her the chance to publish her work. In her art career at Wake Forest, Jiao developed a skill level she never expected to reach. 

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Specifically in her final series she was working on this semester, which consisted of a series of portraits where she painted a human shape wrapped in plastic. The series is one of many that have a direct connection to her work in biology. The plastic series is inspired by the processes of antioxidants and aging, but the paintings themselves demonstrate Jiao’s immense skill with a paintbrush. 

In another series she had done earlier on, Jiao painted plant tissues and animal tissues at a microscopic level, but switched the colors; this way all of the animal tissues were painted green, and the plant tissues were red. She wanted to play off the idea that all organisms are the same when you look at the microscopic level. 

In terms of the legacy she will leave behind, Jiao has plenty of advice for students hoping to follow in her footsteps. Her overarching message to current and new students: take advantage of the opportunities provided to you here. 

“If you want to major in biology and you really enjoy it take the hard classes, those are the most fun. Take as many 300 level courses as possible,” she said.  

For biology students she recommends taking classes with professor Carole Gibson who will give you the skills to be able to confidently read cutting edge papers. For art students, Jiao is always reminded of her first art class, and the feelings she had taking it, so it’s no surprise that she chose a concentration in oil painting, “Oil painting is a statement piece.” Of the combination of the two majors she says that both majors are time consuming and stressful, but doing both is so rewarding. She also wanted to emphasize her appreciation for Muday and art professor Page Laughlin, who have been integral to her academic career and personal growth at Wake Forest 

The two subjects connect in more ways than one would expect, art and science have a lot of connections from the classical period to now, and the histories are intertwined. College is the time to invest in the education you want to learn, so take advantage of this time and take a wide diverse course load. Jiao speaks fondly of her time studying abroad in the Worrell House, as well as taking the Venice Biennale class with Laughlin. When thinking about advice for freshmen, she even took the time to look up when it would be taught next (ART 199 in the Spring 2021, Contemporary Art and the Venice Biennale). 

Having to summarize her entire college experience into only a few words was difficult, but her best memories are of spending time with friends and professors that became friends. Building her community around her, is one of her best accomplishments as a Wake Forest student.

 In a full-circle moment she said she would even travel internationally to come for homecoming and visit her professors. In terms of graduating during COVID-19, Jiao is disappointed that she never got the chance to say goodbye, and tell all of her professors how thankful she is. 

She is especially sad that she will miss the Art Department farewell party, something she had been looking forward to since she declared her art major. But despite the sadness, Ivy is looking towards the future, and is excited to be continuing her education at UIC this fall in their biomedical visualization program. 

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