Brenda Louie

Chinese / American Artist

About Brenda Louie

Brenda Louie

Early Life and Education

Brenda Louie aka Louie Ngun-Man (in Cantonese dialect and Lei Yanwen in Mandarin), was born in Guangdong Province, China in 1953. Louie grew up in Hong Kong attended Tack Ching Girls’ Catholic High School. She immigrated to the United States in 1972 to pursue her advanced education.

 After receiving her BA degree in Economics from the California State University at Sacramento, she worked for the State of California. However, because she always had a special love for art and literature, in 1984, she took a three-year leave of absence from her job to pursue her art. She excelled, and ultimately, she resigned from her governmental post and devoted her life full-time to art. She studied painting, drawing and sculpture intensely with outstanding masters such as Professors Oliver Jackson, Joan Moment, William Allen and Roger Vail and Gerald Walburg. Her graduate work at California State University of Sacramento (CSUS) earned her the Increase Robinson Fellowship Award and Student Academic Development Award. Louie graduated from CSUS with a Master of Arts degree in painting and drawing in 1991.

In the same year, because of her exceptional performance in the visual art, Louie was awarded the Robert Mondavi Fellowship and Gorden Hampton Fellowship to pursue her terminal degree in fine art in Stanford University, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States. At Stanford, she studied under prominent artists such as Nathan Oliveira, David Hannah, Kristina Branch, Joel Leivick, Frank Lobdell, Richard Randell and Larry Thomas. She met the world important composer, John Cage whose work has had a great impact to Louie’s creative thinking. Within the nurturing academic atmosphere in Stanford University, she was also introduced to many leading American artists such Mel Chin, Ann Hamilton, Robert Storr and Lorna Simpson. Louie graduated from Stanford University with a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree in Studio Art in 1993. She has taught art in San Francisco Art Institute, the University of California at Davis and Stanford University. Louie is currently teaching painting and drawing at California State University, Sacramento. She said, “…the joy of teaching, the desire to learn and the love of living are the three major driving forces that inspire my art.”

 Louie’s father, Lui Chiu Sheung, is a scholar and an excellent Chinese calligrapher. Louie studied classical Chinese literature and calligraphy under her father and Chinese brush painting under Master Au Ho-Nien from the early age. She continued to study Chinese philosophy with Dr. Philip J. Ivanhoe and Chinese art history with Dr. Richard Vinograd at Stanford University during her graduate studies. Her mixed cultural and educational background naturally prepared her to take an eclectic and pluralistic approach towards art.

The Artist in her studio


From the beginning, Louie’s work demonstrated a significant leading model for bridging the arts and cultures from the East to the West. Her early work reflected

the uniqueness of cultural experience and explored experiential similarities among diverse cultures. She employed the beauty of Chinese writing in concert

with modern Western art theory in order to create a visual lingua franca. Her work, which began with the application of one culture’s cipherswithin the context of another’s, progressively evolved toward the basic foundations of communication. She said, “…my mother tongue and my adopted English are not blended into some cognitive catalog of resonant or complementary notions. My work reflects a fusion, a unique blend of the contemporary American culture and faraway traditions from the East.”


As an artist who came from two different cultural traditions, Louie believes that she has the responsibility to educate the public through her cross-cultural approach in art making. She has given public lectures on the topics such as “How Chinese Writing Influences My Art” and “Text Used as Contemporary Art – Form and Content” in both China and the United States.


Louie’s work has received numerous awards and recognitions from museums, galleries and the art communities throughout the United States. She received the prestigious Juror’s Award from the Crocker-Kingsley Annual Art competition at the Crocker Art Museum in both 1988 and 1991. Louie was a recipient of the Cash Award at the Calgene Contemporary Fine Art Competition in 1990 in Natsoulas/Novelozo Art Gallery of Davis in California juried by Wayne Thiebaud.


“River Dancing Series XXX”, Collection of Crocker Art MuseumSacramentoCalifornia

Louie’s oil on canvas painting, “River Dancing Series XXX” was awarded the Golden Bear Award in from the California State Fair annual art competition in 1991: this painting is now included in the permanent collection of Crocker Art Museum. The Golden Bear Award brought her a California State Senate Resolution of Commendation sponsored by State Senator Leroy Greene. Louie’s contribution to the art community has also earned her the Certificate of Recognition and Commendation and Fellowship Award for Visual Artists Program from Sacramento County Board of Supervisors as well as a Resolution from the Sacramento City Council from Mayor Joe Serna, Jr. and the Honorable Mention of Visual Art Fellowship Commissions’ Award from Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission in California in 2002. Louie’s outstanding performance in the art field has brought her a special nomination for the Makepeace Tsao Award at the Davis Art Center in California in 2003 and the public recognition of her work earned her nominations for the definitively prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in New York City in 1999 and in 2001.


Book of Zero Series

In addition to painting on canvas, Louie is also a mixed media installation artist. Her solo art installation, The Book of Zero Series,introduced the concept and the image of “zero” as a new element to her visual language. Louie writes, “…zero symbolizes both nothingness and the primal energy of everything. The zero is used as lens to see the world…” Behind the circular motif of each encaustic painting, there are multiple layers of hidden words and obscured collaged images ,that represent the historical tapestry of memory. Binary encoding is used to provoke new interpretations. The Book of Zero Series at the Nelson Art Gallery of the University of California at Davis in 2004 included Gobo light wall installation as well as encaustic paintings and three dimensional clay sculpture arranged in collaboration with leading light artist, Kyle Lemoi. This art installation was selected as the Best Gallery Show of the Year in the Region in 2004 by Victoria Dalkey, the primary art correspondent from one of the most important Northern California newspapers, The Sacramento Bee, once commented, “…Louie’s use of red, the vermillion of Chinese chop marks, hovers between cultures, calling up Western association with fire, blood and pain and Eastern allusion to life and fertility…”


The painting “River Dancing I” is in the collection of the Shields Library at University of California in Davis

Louie is a prolific artist. Her work has been exhibiting across the nation – from California to New Jersey in the United States. Louie’s work has been collected by private sectors and museums as well as universities, such as Wickland Oil Company in the U.S., the University of California at Davis and Zhejiang Museum in Hangzhou, P.R. China as well as Farhat Art Museum, Beirut.


Louie works in two studios in California – a painting studio and a drawing studio. Her urban painting studio, with 16 feet tall red brick walls as well as tall windows with the smell of the oil paint gives visitors a sense of being in the famous Soho art district in New York City. This studio is located inside the Porter Building which is in the heart of the financial district in downtown Sacramento. The historic Porter Building is a unique piece of Sacramento historic architecture that was built in the late 1800’s. She said,”…the sound of the traffic from the street cars and the sun light in the morning that shines through the glass windows give me the inspiration to create and contemplate. My studio is my personal temple…” Her specious drawing studio with skylights is located at the back of her home in woody Fair Oaks in Sacramento County

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