The story behind the work

Found items are central to Ding Ren's artistic creations

Ding Ren's "Found Shopping List Alignment (Example 1 and Example 2)." Ren began collecting found objects with writing on them in high school.
Ding Ren's "Found Shopping List Alignment (Example 1 and Example 2)." Ren began collecting found objects with writing on them in high school. (From Ding Ren)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 23, 2010

Ding Ren has always noticed things. As a small child being driven around by her parents, she would look out the window and memorize the route. By the time she learned to drive herself, she says, "I already knew how to get everywhere."

That talent has not always been appreciated.

It was in high school that the artist started accumulating what would eventually become a large part of her artmaking material: mostly random things with writing on them, such as the found shopping lists in the show. Because she hadn't yet "come to terms with what to do with them," she explains, she stored the scraps of paper in a bag. Until one day her mother, thinking it was trash, threw it out.

Nowadays, Ren knows better. Whenever she finds something interesting on the ground, it goes straight into an accordion file labeled "art storage."

"My art," she says, "is pretty portable."

-- Michael O'Sullivan


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