Peter Xiao

Peter Xiao

Bettendorf, IA



Born in Beijing, China, Peter Tong Xiao came to the U.S. in 1980 to complete his fine art and English majors with Phi Beta Kappa honor at Coe College, cheered on by Bob Kocher (who was hired and mentored by Marvin Cone, Grant Wood’s colleague). Peter went on to Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia for his MFA in painting in 1984. (David Goodwin, his art history professor and friend, gave him a lift to Athens, Ohio first, to introduce him to Henry Lin, father of Maya Lin, under whose tutelage David had done his graduate studies. Henry turned out acquainted to Peter’s father Xiao Qian, as Henry’s sister, famous Chinese poet and architect Lin Shuhua, had mentored Peter’s father in his youth in wartime China) Going on to the East Coast, Peter spent a summer working under the table in NYC’s Chinatown and East Village with the now world famous Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. From 1986 to 1988, Peter worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (where he sneaked a behind the curtain peep of Duchamp’s infamous Etant Donnes!) and taught life drawing part-time at the Museum’s Samuel Fletcher Art Memorial. His work was featured in the U of Penn’s Institute of Contemporary Art, carried by Dolan/Maxwell Gallery in Philadelphia, NYC, and Chicago’s International Art Exposition. He joined the Augustana faculty in 1989 to teach drawing and painting and is now a professor, chairing or co-chairing the Art Department and Asian Studies Program in some years, and currently honored as Anderson Endowed Chair for the Arts. Xiao shows work regionally and nationwide, some being group exhibitions in recent years with Chinese born American art academics, notably a 2018 international exhibition of expatriate Chinese artists hosted by the Hexiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen, China. He has taught in Italy and the Netherlands and will teach in Spain in 2024.  

Artist Statement

My use of ear imagery began with a curb find of an ear-shaped TV antenna dish. In our time of noisy social media and irreconcilable culture clashes, the idea of ears or eyes as a body’s neutral organs for receiving information seems to disagree with common practice. We seem directed by our biases to preselect, predetermine, and prejudge the goings-on around us and easily resort to extreme language to reinforce our own positions and shut out opponents because we own different or “alternative” facts somehow?! That things may be messed up in some fundamental way worries and scares me, which I explore through painting, for small relief but by no means as remedy.

Peter Xiao, Rumor Tree with Lightning, 2022, oil on canvas, 42" x 48" x 3"