Candy Rong-Rong Wei, born on August 5, 1980, grew up in Durham, North Carolina, where her mother, Jing Wang, taught at Duke University. Candy’s interest in art was evident from a very early age. She devoted her time not only to drawing and painting, but also to experimenting with mediums such as origami papers, linoleum blocks, wood block, conceptual photography, digital art, sculpture and graphic design. When she was fifteen, Candy had her first psychotic breakdown, entered a mental ward at Duke, and spent a year at home recovering. She was diagnosed with a schizo-affective illness.
Her signature work is comprised of three dozen drawings, paintings, and woodblock prints that celebrate the moment of fertilization of the egg. This is the “The Egg and Sperm Series”, completed during the last year of her life (2000-2001). The series offers a vision of the joy of living and the anticipation of (re)birth. This series also foreshadows her suicide. Candy’s art is inseparable from her struggle with schizophrenia, inspiring both images of fear and death and images of sperm that are splitting into multiplying entities seeking to fertilize the eggs.
Candy was also a prolific poet and short story writer. She was devoted to literary and art zines as multi-dimensional areas for creativity. From 1995-1996, Candy began work on a literary zine called “Yteicos” (“society” spelled backwards), for which she wrote occasional editorials and published poetry on topics such as death and rebirth. She was also one of the three editors of “Eat the Monster”, a literary-art zine.
Candy entered the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design in Fall 1999. In fall 2000, the beginning of her sophomore year, she had another relapse and withdrew from school, returning to Durham for treatment. In January 2001, Candy returned to the University of Michigan. On January 16, she committed suicide in her dorm. Her suicide was reported by major news media and served as one of the centerpieces of a media driven campaign to reform university mental health services for students. A scholarship fund was established in Candy’s name at the University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. The recipients of this fund made individual contributions to this site by submitting works inspired during their study abroad.
Jackie Yu Jie
Jackie Yu Jie, a Chinese filmmaker currently residing in Los Angeles, USA, made this video. Jackie studied in the Master’s Program in Film and Video at the California Institute of the Arts (LA). She first encountered Candy’s story in Art World, a Shanghai-based Chinese magazine. Moved by Candy’s art, Jackie flew to Boston in December 2003 to collect materials for a documentary she wanted to make. The video is made up of her interview of Jing Wang, Candy’s mother. She registered her thoughts on Candy as follows:
In the beginning. She was a name on a piece of paper She was a young lady I wish I would have had the chance to give her a hug. She was Candy Wei
Unavoidably, along the way, we have heard or even seen many deaths. Mournful? Joyful? Anguished? Understandable? People always say, “Life is like a journey”. How was Candy’s journey?
Although Candy chose to leave us for a different realm of existence, she still allows us to learn her, through her artworks, our memories and the documentary of sound and image. Candy’s talent, emotions, spirit are vividly reflected in different media. The journey with Candy sails on.
Yu Jie approaches storytelling with diverse media. Her works range from experimental fantasy-portrait, to conceptual videography, and to narrative drama. In addition, she enjoys doing sound design and sound mix for animation, live action films and modern dance performance. For more details of her work, please visit www.jyfilms.com.
Ms. Jin is a graduate student of Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT.
"Candy R. Wei: Reincarnation, Death, Art, and Schizophrenia"