East Lyme artist paints Malloy’s official portrait
East Lyme — When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s official gubernatorial portrait was unveiled Thursday night at Hartford’s Museum of Connecticut History, it was immediately apparent that his portrait was much different from those of his predecessors.
Surrounded by those portraits in the museum’s Memorial Hall, Malloy’s painting, with its unconventional pose, colors and symbolism, was a purposeful step away from the traditional, both in its imagery and with the artist chosen to paint it.
Commissioned to bring that vision to fruition was Christopher Zhang of East Lyme, a Chinese immigrant who belongs to several art organizations nationwide including the Lyme Art Association, the Copley Society of Art in Boston and the Oil Painters of America, he has been recognized as a master oil painter.
Zhang is known for his realistic painting style, which merges Chinese and westernized influences — a bridge, Zhang said, between East and West. Besides portraits, Zhang is known for his use of color, depicting Chinese culture through its people, paintings of Western ballet dancers and landscapes from Tibet or New England, among other locations.
Zhang immigrated from China to Providence in the late ’80s to pursue a master’s degree in fine art at the Rhode Island School of Design before completing his studies at Rhode Island College. Arriving with just a suitcase, a roll of canvas paintings and 30,000 and was paid for by the state.
“My art is not meant to be political, and that is possible here in the United States, where I have freedom,” he said. “What stood out to me was how we both came from two complete sides of the world, two completely different backgrounds. This painting bridged together those sides, both East and West.”