b. 1969 in New York, lives and works in Beijing
Michael Cherney studied Chinese language and history at the State University of New York at Binghamton, followed by graduate language study at Beijing Language Institute. A self- taught photographer, Cherney's formal studies, combined with his rigorous personal studies of China's art historical past, have resulted in his abiding appreciation and even reverence for China's rich history and painting tradition, particularly landscape painting. His relationship with China has been deepened by his residence in Beijing for well over two decades along with his extensive travel throughout China, seeking out the specific sites that have historical relevance to his work. He has described his art as a way “to look upon a place imbued with a vast (sometimes daunting) accumulation of history and cultural memory, and then to capture one instant, fleeting, tangible moment of it with a photograph.”
Cherney’s photography is an art of boundaries; of masking and enlarging the image. It is an art that challenges the viewing audience to imagine what hovers just beyond the immediately visible. His final presentation is a modern elaboration of traditional formatting: books or albums, hanging scrolls, handscrolls, large-scale screens, round and folding fan shapes. By this presentation, modern photography becomes a natural extension of premodern media, and Cherney's art becomes a meditation on the long history of Chinese visual art.
Cherney's works were the first photographic works collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Asian Art and are in the permanent collections of many other museums as well, including the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive, Cleveland Museum of Art, Getty Research Institute, Harvard University Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Middlebury College Museum of Art, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Portland Art Museum, Princeton University Art Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, among others.
"Cherney is unique among Western artists working entirely, and convincingly, in the Chinese milieu." Don J. Cohn, Art Asia Pacific
“[Cherney’s] impact on the genre of Chinese landscape painting is as profound as its impact on him." Sara Laursen, Middlebury College
“One would be hard-pressed to find a “more Chinese” artist than Qiu Mai. Photographer, calligrapher, and book artist, Qiu Mai’s work is done with the great sophistication that draws on the subtleties of China’s most scholarly and esoteric traditions. Based in Beijing and a successful artist whose works have been collected by The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Asian Art, Qiu Mai’s art is less provocative than it is intellectually engaging, meditative, and often simply beautiful. What is provocative is his identity: Qiu Mai is the Chinese name for Michael Cherney, born in New York of Jewish parentage. Cherney’s work is the cutting-edge demonstration of artistic globalization: if Asian artists can so readily “come West,” then what is to prevent large numbers of future Western artists from “going Asian”? Or, like Qiu Mai/Michael Cherney, going both ways at once, both American and Chinese, modern and traditional.” Jerome Silbergeld, P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Professor of Chinese Art History, Princeton University