JORDYN RUSSELL – STAFF WRITER
Though the week for the Chautauqua Lecture Series and Interfaith Lecture Series may be over, nestled in the Bellowe Family Gallery on the second floor of the Strohl Art Center exists a conversation waiting to be had in concert with Chautauqua Institution’s Week One theme of “China and the World: Collaboration, Competition, Confrontation?”
“Co-Existence,” which opened last Sunday and runs through July 21, features the works of artists Cecile Chong, Jennifer Ling Datchuk, QiuChen Fan and Cathy Lu — all of Chinese descent, living and working in the United States.
“The works of these artists examine Chinese and American cultural signifiers and interrogate the histories of everyday objects like plants, hair, paddles and vases,” said Erika Diamond, assistant director of galleries for Chautauqua Visual Arts. “They explore what it means to co-exist between two cultures, and despite their shared heritage, their works vary greatly in material and perspective.”
Diamond, who is the primary curator for “Co-Existence” in consultation with Abby Chen of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and Susan and John Turben Director of Chautauqua Visual Arts Galleries Judy Barie, said CVA strived to share a wide range of works made by contemporary artists.
Chen introduced them to the work of Cathy Lu.
San Francisco-based Lu uses her artwork to “unpack how experiences of immigration, cultural hybridity and cultural assimilation relate to the bigger picture of the larger American identity,” according to the Berkeley Art Center website.
“My work manipulates traditional Chinese art objects and symbols as a way to deconstruct the assumptions we have about Asian-American identity and cultural authenticity,” Lu wrote on her website. “By creating ceramic-based sculptures and large-scale installations, I explore what it means to be both Asian and American, while not being entirely accepted as either.”
Five of Lu’s untitled vases will be displayed at the exhibition, created with materials such as discarded internet cables and zip ties.
Three of QiuChen Fan’s paintings from her “Habitat” series are on display. In an interview with The Curator’s Salon, Fan said her style was “strongly influenced by collage art, digital printing and graphic design, especially my most recent paintings.”
“Design thoughts like limited use of color and minimal compositions help me build a bold and surreal environment on canvas,” Fan told The Curator’s Salon. “Also, the plant imagery is depicted in the way of realistic representation, even though likeness is not a subject matter in my work. This actually embraces the collage idea of using photos and also printed floral images on retro wallpaper: forever paradox for humans of using the artificial to heal longings for the real.”
Cecile Chong is multimedia artist working in painting, sculpture, installation and video, who has five mixed media pieces in the exhibition. According to her artist’s statement on her website, her work “addresses ideas of cultural interaction and interpretation, as well as the commonalities humans share both in our relationship to nature and to each other. Inspired by materials as signifiers, she is interested in how we acquire and share culture, and how world cultures now overlap and interact in ways previously inconceivable.”
Jennifer Ling Datchuk, who also has five pieces showcased in “Co-Existence,” was trained in ceramics and uses materials ranging from porcelain to fabric in her work.
“I am always trying to make sense of what it means to be an American,” Datchuk told Wendy Bowman Butler for Butler’s “In the Studio” series. “I think the objects I make are examining that, asking questions and disentangling histories, recasting stories. I am always in some ways looking back in the past to make it present the personal is political. I can never run out of ideas because all of this is so heavy.”