Lunar New Year 2023
We moved to New Mexico in early December and for the holidays my mom came to visit us. We did a special shoot with photographer Brad Trone at his studio in Santa Fe. I wanted to memorialize our multi-generational family while also celebrating the Lunar New Year and some of Ziran's new upcoming prints.
This was our daughter Meilu's first official photoshoot, and damn did she deliver. The second she went on set she was a firecracker of energy and happiness - smiling, laughing, and cackling with joy. This little human was born to perform.
For our family, the lunar new year has always meant family and food. We eat massive amounts of dumplings, fish, and fruit. We exchange red envelopes and talk about our resolutions for the new year. We fight, we laugh, and we relish in gratitude. I am looking forward to passing our family's traditions down to our daughter.
I asked my mom (aka Mama Wang) and Lucien some questions about their wishes for 2023 and how they're feeling in their new roles as Grandma and Father (both are first timers!).
What are you welcoming in 2023? What are you leaving behind? AKA what is “in” and what is “out”?
Lucien: In 2023 I welcome slowing down. Reconstituting a regular daily spiritual practice, calling in happiness, abundance, success, and growth. I would like to leave behind any negativity, release the ever consuming fear, and try to take a deep breath before reacting.
Mama Wang: In 2023 I welcome gratitude, joy and better communication! I'm leaving out worry, conflict, and negative emotions. Imagine the year of 2023 as a tree with a root and branches. The goal is to take good care of the root... and then the leaves will flourish and be plentiful.
What does being a grandma mean to you?
Mama Wang: Being a grandma (Laolao 姥姥) allows me to experience more fully the continuity of human life with hope and inspiration; an unconditional love with care and acceptance; and a profound human connectivity that truly shapes a healthy human existence.
What does being a father mean to you?
Lucien: Being a father means to smile, have fun, and see the world from a bright new perspective. It is giving me the opportunity to be the best version of myself, admit my mistakes (I know nothing), role with the punches, and 100 percent sleep less. I hope to always approach Meilu with a positive outlook, stop what I'm doing to aid her, and help support her while she learns the roller coaster we call life. I will also support my wife in raising our daughter as a team while providing for my family.
How have these new roles changed you?
Lucien: I think this new role as a father hasn’t changed me but set a new level of what can be achieved. Most importantly, I instantly learned that I am no longer most important, this fresh new life is.
Mama Wang: This Laolao rule has not changed me that much except wanting to know every move or development this “bundle of joy” makes... and going to every baby store while I am traveling around the world.
Lucien, what are you inspired by in 2023? What about your art practice has changed since becoming a father?
Lucien: In 2023 I am inspired with the situation we are currently in while at this art residency called RAiR in New Mexico. Here it's about nature, breathe, and taking a year to learn about becoming a family. Practicing patience and as much art-making as possible. There is plenty of time for everything to get done. My art is instantly giving new meaning to the things I make... how can I include my daughter in these meanings and processes of the work? Like growth, cocoon, love, innocence, emergence, butterfly, protection...
Mama, what are your childhood memories of Chinese New Year? What does it symbolize?
Consistent and vivid memories of my childhood from Chinese New Year (Chunjie 春节) are joyful and unfathomable human relationships, and a robust sense of belonging and gratitude through two distinctive activities: 1. Making jiaozi 饺子 (dumplings). Everyone contributes to making the dumplings from dawn to noon. And 2. Going to the homes of teachers and respected elders to bow, called bai nian 拜年. Bowing to teachers and the elderly shows our respect and appreciation to those who have taught and nourished us through the year. My neck became sore due to bowing so much during the Chinese New Year!
Basically, a traditional Chinese New Year is a time to renew and strengthen human connectivity and joy!
Finally (you made it this far!!!!), this was also the first time we've created a still life. We chose specific objects that represent elements of Chinese culture, Ziran, and our family:
The color red: red is fire, energy, and symbolizes vitality, celebration, good fortune, good luck, and prosperity. Basically all of the things.
Fish: Fish 鱼 in Chinese is pronounced "yu," which is the same pronunciation for the word "surplus," so eating fish symbolizes wealth and prosperity in the coming year.
Gold dumplings: Dumplings represent wealth and are eaten in the New Year because they resemble gold ingots, which are boat-shaped pieces of gold that were used as money during the Qin dynasty. We eat dumplings to call in money.
Persimmon: The persimmon is a winter fruit of China and the pronunciation of persimmon 柿子 (shi zi) sounds like the word "things" (shi). So persimmons symbolize that "everything goes well" or "everything goes along with your wishes" (shi shi ru yi) for the new year. Also when persimmons become soft they taste very sweet like honey, so persimmons are a symbol of the sweetness of life.
Bandanas: signature Ziran pieces in new colorways.
Lucien's sculpture: Lucien's art is difficult to describe but this new piece is a bronze bell attached to a baseball bat adorned with "street diamonds," aka glass from cars that have broken into. This sculpture mirrors Lucien's role in our family and who he is. He is our protector, perhaps intimidating at first glance, but a deeper dive reveals someone who values purpose, beauty, and a profound reverence for everything.
Red envelope: filled with money, red envelopes (hong bao 红包) are given as presents during the new year celebration and represent good wishes and luck for the year ahead.
Flowers: represent fresh beginnings and the renewal of life.
Wishing you and your loved ones all the prosperity 禄, longevity 寿, health 健康, and happiness 福, in this new year!
Ok just kidding, FOR REAL this is the end... how could we wrap this story without some info about the Year of the Rabbit!?
In the Chinese zodiac, 2023 is the year of the Water Rabbit.
"The Rabbit is the fourth of all zodiac animals. Legend has it the Rabbit was proud—arrogant even—of its speed. He was neighbors with Ox and always made fun of how slow Ox was. One day, the Jade Emperor said the zodiac order would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived at his party. Rabbit set off at daybreak. But when he got there, no other animals were in sight. Thinking that he would obviously be first, he went off to the side and napped. However, when he woke up, three other animals had already arrived. One of them was the Ox he had always looked down upon." (Source: Chinesenewyear.net)
WE LOVE YOU AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Words: Kelly Wang Shanahan (@theziran)
Photography + Still Life: Brad Trone (@bradtrone)
Subjects: Dr. Robin (Mama) Wang, Lucien Shapiro (@lucienshapiro), Kelly, and Meilu
Shot in Santa Fe, December 2022.