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Shelley Hershberger + Shu-Ju Wang

In early 2009, Shelley Hershberger and Shu-Ju Wang began a visual dialog to explore a shared curiosity: the enigma of being American.

For Shu-Ju that meant delving into the issues of being a Chinese-born American, a minority, a woman of the world who has lived in multiple cultures and not particularly rooted in place; an ex-software engineer now full-time painter, printmaker and book artist. For Shelley, it meant facing the heavy history being a white American of northern European decent, and although having lived abroad, being a person with many American ancestors and great grandparents Oregonians, deeply rooted in place; an ex-technical writer and communications executive now full-time painter and printmaker.

After agreeing upon a common format (12”x12” or any dimension where width + height equals 24”), we embarked. The process allowed each of us to question the other, to elicit reactions on multiple levels, to challenge our own and the other's assumptions, perceptions and reference points, to address culturally based conventions of representation, to look beneath, or at least beyond, face value. We restricted physical contact and verbal communication, limiting ourselves to a visual conversation: Shelley with oils on canvas or panels and Shu-Ju in gouache and acrylic on paper mounted on board. After the first exchange, we met every couple of months to share a new painting in response to the other’s previous piece.

Although we did not discuss our work in progress, uncanny parellels evolved in the pairings and progression. Below, the images are organized to follow the exchange: the top two images are the first pieces. Below Shelley’s initial piece, “Are We There Yet?” is Shu-Ju’s response to it, entitled “Trip”. Likewise, below Shu-Ju’s initial piece, “Prosperity Soup to Be Eaten in the Dark” is Shelley’s response: “WTO Tigers.” And so on.

In addition to being a vehicle for our concerns and curiosities, the progression of exchanges began to reveal its own reality. As we shared our ideas and responses through the first four exchanges, we moved away from the bigger world, the politics and economic concerns of the larger community, past cultural transgressions, and the guilt of history. The pairs of paintings are becoming about the two of us as individuals, in the here and now. At their core these works convey the very basic human activity of developing understanding as we share ourselves with one another, each being touched and becoming influenced by the other in ways that blur the lines of what is you, what is me.

The exchange took 14 months to complete and includes a total of 12 paintings. Images © each individual artist respectively.

Unfortunately, Shelley passed away not long after this project was completed, and her website is no longer available.

To see more of Shu-Ju's work, please visit her website.


Shelley Hershberger, Are We There Yet?
12” x 12”, oil on canvas, 2009


Shu-Ju Wang, Properity Soup to Be Eaten in the Dark
12” x 12”, gouache & acrylic on paper mounted on panel, 2009


Shu-Ju Wang, Trip
12” x 12”, gouache & acrylic on paper mounted on panel, 2009
Response to Are We There Yet?


Shelley Hershberger, WTO Tigers
12” x 12”, oil on canvas, 2009
Response to Properity Soup to Be Eaten in the Dark


Shelley Hershberger, Pacific Rim
12” x 12”, oil on canvas, 2009
Response to Trip


Shu-Ju Wang, Two
12” x 12”, gouache & acrylic on paper mounted on panel, 2009
Response to WTO Tigers


Shu-Ju Wang, DNA
12” x 12”, gouache & acrylic on paper mounted on panel, 2009
Response to Pacific Rim


Shelley Hershberger, Friends
12” x 12”, oil on canvas, 2009
Response to Two


Shelley Hershberger, No Other
12” x 12”, oil on canvas, 2009
Response to DNA


Shu-Ju Wang, Turquoise & Lime Green Fight to the Death
12” x 12”, gouache & acrylic on paper mounted on panel, 2009
Response to Friends


Shu-Ju Wang, Cosmic Laundry
12” x 12”, gouache & acrylic on paper mounted on panel, 2009
Response to No Other


Shelley Hershberger, Party On
12” x 12”, oil on panel, 2009
Response to Turquoise & Lime Green Fight to the Death