Renney Zhu

BFA in Art & Design


My project revolves around the concept of maladaptive daydreaming, and how it is used as a coping mechanism that becomes a regular habit and difficult to stop. Those that daydream constantly find themselves indulging more within their fantasies, rather than staying grounded in the real world. In times like these where the reality of things is incredibly stressful and can be overwhelming, one of the easiest ways to stay comfortable is to be able allow the mind to wander freely, to act as a distraction. My cultural identity plays a key factor in my own experiences with my daydreams, my project is an exploration of how to visually interpret these experiences. Through a series of illustrations, I look into how fantasies act as a source of comfort and solace, and how they can develop over time, as well as look into what can cause these fantasies to grow more complex.

entrance – The main character is poking their head out from behind some trees, looking at the entrance area for a village. They are intrigued by the gate which resembles a paifang (Chinese gate/arch structure). There is a sense of curiosity and wanting to see what is on the other side.

testing the waters – The new area has interesting “people” and structures, but there seems to be some kind of event happening where some firecrackers are being set off. It’s not a lot, but the pressure of suddenly finding themselves in the middle of an event surrounded by unfamiliar things makes the main character feel overwhelmed, but they’re unsure of how to express this properly. They try to go along with the flow but their body language is more pensive and tensed up than trying to actively engage with their surroundings. The building structures here are based on the buildings around my neighborhood, and the multiple characters represent different aspects of myself.

escape – In order to get away from the outside, the main character finds an empty building to try and cool down in, but they’re still wary of their surroundings and a bit stressed. Trying to go deeper into the building and further away from the outside, they notice bright lights and particles coming from the back room. This is also where they start to transition from being “grounded in reality” to becoming “invested in their fantasy.”

resolve – The lights and particles are being emitted from a puddle-like part of the ground in the back. The main character sees these and is more intrigued by these bright colors and the shapes they see within the lights, and makes the decision to interact with this instead of heading back outside. The lights are actually part of a portal, and the main character interacting with it allows them to actually become immersed within the world they see inside.

immersion – Within this new fantasy world there are a lot of more abstract shapes and objects, each that feel vaguely familiar but are slightly distorted so they are not as recognizable. The main character is in the midst of falling and reaching the ground in this new environment, and they are intrigued at the vast surroundings and all of the unnatural colors. Each of these elements are also drawn from objects in my own life as well as visuals from my dreams.

indulgence – Even though they are alone in another different world, the main character is more comfortable with this fantastical one. There are some more clearer shapes that make the environment more welcoming, such as a porch and a waterfall. A reflection of the outside can be seen in the river-like formation, indicating that while they have removed themselves from being out there, they have not completely lost touch with reality. Knowing that they are still able to bring themselves back whenever they want is enough to let them relax in this fantasy world for however long they want.