Being different is never easy, and even more so when you live in a restrictive and conservative society like that of communist Chinese. Born in a farming village in the Shaanxi province of north-west China, Xiyadie (蝴蝶) – a pseudonym which translates as ‘Butterfly’ – has turned to traditional paper-cut art to express his artistic imagination and express his feelings about gay love.
Like many gay Chinese men, Xiyadie, who now lives and works in Beijing, is married, and has two grown-up children, who have little clue as to their father’s true sexual orientation. In several of his colourful artworks, distinguished by their use of the colour red, Xiyadie depicts the emotional battles that have raged in the process of coming out to his wife. In most of the papercuts, however, we have a clear sense of the artist’s exhilarating, clandestine joys as well as his deep sorrows. He explains that his works aren’t made for profit, but simply for self-expression: ‘Paper cutting is my own spiritual world, a world in which there are no worries and sorrows, just peace and free imagination.’
The only time that Xiyadie’s works have been exhibited is in the United States, where in 2012 the Flazh!Alley Gallery in San Pedro, California staged a successful show of fifty of his works.