My name is Kyra Middeleer. I was born and raised in Connecticut. I'm planning to declare East Asian Studies as my major, with a minor in Studio Art. I spent my first year in Shanghai.
When I studied Daoism last year, my SFII professor originally planned for us to write an analytical essay combining what we had learned through the various Daoist texts we read. The texts were no easy feat to wrap around, with such poetic and abstract imagery. When I approached him for advice on how to tackle the essay, he started brainstorming another option and ultimately decided to let the classes reflect what they learned through creative methods. One of the reasons, which we talked about, was the irony of Daoism being written through an instruction format (in the text "The Secret of the Golden Flower") when one of its major themes is "not doing". I felt a little less intimidated at the prospect of reflecting Daoist themes through art then, because it felt more expressive than I could wish to accomplish through text. I figured I could make a drawing or painting that tried to evoked the same essence the Daoist texts attempted to command. While I was brainstorming in front of my paint and paper, I made myself a cup of lichi black tea that I'd bought at a market in Shanghai a couple weeks before. I considered the tea cup, and how much fuller the flavor was in the small cup the shop keeper poured for me as I only had a few sips before it emptied. I impulsively dipped my paint brush in the tea cup and played with it on the paper, and it came to me: paint the tea with tea. Once the inspiration started, everything was easy and I couldn't stop thinking of Daoist analogies and images. For once I didn't doubt I was doing the assignment correctly, no matter how unconventional the project seemed. The exercise glued everything I'd read and discussed in class about Daoism. It's funny how one part of my brain triggered information I had absorbed and exposed through a different teaching method, and to have such an enlightening effect