Wen-Ju Chien (FIU BFA ’11) was born in Taiwan in 1988 and moved to Miami 10 years later. She had been doodling since she was very young but was restricted from doing anything art-related by her Miami relatives. When it was time to apply to high schools, she dreamed of going to DASH, but was forced to go to MAST Academy because of the restrictions placed on her.
In high school, she struggled to do what she loved, because of her relative’s restrictions. She would save her lunch money and use it towards club and organization fees, so she could be more involved. Chien had a plan: to be involved with school activities so she could gain more skills and learn new things. She joined the school newspaper and was in charge of the drawings and “Spotlight” page.
When it came to applying for colleges, she applied to many out-of-state, well-known art and design schools, as well as for scholarships. However, her relatives refused to support her if she had chosen an art school, and the Financial Aid that the schools offered were too low, so she ended up attending Florida International University, which was not her first choice. To more easily become independent from her relative’s restriction, Chien started to live on campus, closed her old bank account and opened a new account, and purchased her own cell phone. She was now on her own and free.
While in school, she continued to involve herself in campus activities, such as becoming a Peer Advisor and Resident Assistant to network with fellow students, make new friends, gain personal and professional skills, and try to build her resume. She applied for Dependency Override to continue receiving Financial Aid, and she took advantage of the counseling services. In her sophomore year, Chien finally decided she would pursue her degree in Fine Arts.
Chien graduated from FIU in Fall of 2011 with a BFA. During her time at FIU, she was the recipient of the Betty Laird Perry Purchase Award, the FIU Arts Council Scholarship, and the FIU Alumni Association: Legacy Scholarship. Her body of work consisted of ink pen drawings. She created characters and their environments based on friends, people she met, personal experiences, feelings, and memories. Drawing was a way for her to express how she felt, and it was a way to thank certain people in her life. Some of her drawings involved feelings and memories from when she was living with her relatives.
After graduating, Chien worked at FriendsWithYou as their Junior Designer for a few months before their relocation. Then, she worked at different types of jobs to try to make ends meet, while she still worked on her own art. She continued the same body of work she had in college, which was using ink pen on papers. She went to local events to sell her art and to start building her own brand, Wenjuice. Months later, she started drawing with markers on canvas to add more color to her work.
In 2012, Chien visited Taiwan and saw her mom for the first time in 12 years. Her mother was not well. After Chien came back to Miami, she found out that her mother was diagnosed with cancer, so Chien returned to Taiwan to accompany her mother while she was in the hospital. She would later travel back to Taiwan for her mother’s funeral. Some of Chien’s drawings depict how she felt about this experience.
Today, Chien continues her passion. She has converted her struggles into sparks of inspiration, and these push her to pursue her dream. Chien today has a registered LLC and continues to sell her artwork at different events and online. Right now, she is working on sewing functional art products, such as string bag backpacks and canvas artwork. Chien is known today for her humor, through her drawings of “poop” characters, which are popular culture characters depicted as fecal matter. The roster of these characters includes some from Star Wars, Marvel, and and popular cartoons. With this concept, she creates greeting cards, magnets, shirts, drawings, and more.
Chien’s past projects has been the Art of Giving (during her time at FIU), the Super Health Heroes comic coloring book, and the Children’s Rehab Network Coloring Book. Chien’s work is in the collections of the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum and the Beatrice and Paul McClelland Private Collection.
“I have been surviving off of my art career full time since May of last year,” said Chien. “It’s a struggle, but I am determined to make it work.”
“My FIU education shaped me in many ways,” she said. “My professors and instructors were extremely helpful. The advisors from campus involvement activities and friends were very supportive and encouraging. They all taught me a lot of valuable personal and professional skills that I still use today. I learned the value and importance of friendship, networking, finances, building a portfolio, pursuing my career, taking advantage of resources, being alive, and more. I learned to love myself more and embrace who I am. I learned to be selfish in a good way – to ask for and accept help. Most important of all, I learned to believe in my work and have faith that I can make it as a successful artist. I am extremely proud to be a Golden Panther because as cheesy as it sounds, if I had never gone to FIU, I would not have been where and who I am today. If I had gone to another university, I am not sure if my education would have been the same. I am grateful for the education, help, and experiences I received from FIU because without those factors, I would not be here. I guess it’s true what people say when things happen for a reason. It happened for a reason that I ended up attending FIU.”
Wen-Ju Chien (Taiwan, b. 1988)
Big Crazy World, 21st century 2011
Ink on paper
23 x 29 inches
Betty Laird Perry Purchase Award
Follow FIU Art + Art History on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.