NYAA/Shanghai Univ./CAFA 2012 China Residency: Impressions

On May 31 Four Academy students arrived in China to start an 11-week Artist in Residence Program in Shanghai and later Beijing.  Cory Dixon (MFA 2013), Megan Ewert (MFA 2013), Kristy Gordon (MFA 2013), and Nicolas Sanchez (MFA 2013) will share their experiences here throughout the summer.

July 4, 2012 - By Kristy Gordon (MFA 2013)

Yellow Mountain
It is said that to be a good painter one must see Yellow Mountain. After visiting I recognized it from almost any Chinese painting I have ever seen involving a mountain range.  The hike was a long rugged way up to the top.  We were able to take a cable car up most of the way and then just walk along some beautiful stairs to get to the top.  When I think about the artists that used to go on pilgrimages up Yellow Mountain, before the benefit of modern technology, it must have been a true challenging spiritual pilgrimage.  Having grown up in the Rocky Mountains of Canada I have seen a lot of mountains, but none have matched the beauty of this particular landscape--lush, gorgeous greenery mixed with striking jagged escarpments.  It is almost so picturesque that it’s hard to believe they exist.  They seem to always be encased in mist and even though it was actually pouring rain the day we went up, that didn't seem to stop anyone.  Everyone on the mountain was prepared with yellow rain ponchos, which we joked is why it is called Yellow Mountain.

Yellow Mountain

Ancestor House

 We also got to visit a nearby traditional village where we saw an ancestor house, which was built to honor their ancestors and use as a meeting place.  We even had the opportunity to go inside some traditional Chinese houses, many filled with intricate wood carvings. 

Woodcarving detail
Ancestor House "woodcarvings"

Ancestor House "Heavenly Well"

They all had a “Heavenly well,” an open air portion in the middle of the home that is open to the sky with a rocky indent in the floor directly underneath, symbolic of the connection between heaven and earth.  It was amazing to think that people actually still lived in these gorgeous homes, and I was surprised to see a mix between more contemporary fashion and products within older, traditional dwellings. 


Impression on West Lake

We ended the trip with one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I was a bit tired by the time we arrived at “Impression on West Lake,” which was a performance directed by Zhang Yi Mou, the same guy who directed the opening to the Beijing Olympics.  I hadn’t seen that so I had no idea what I was in for.  

Impression on West Lake

It was amazing! Focusing on theatrical lighting illuminating the lake in the darkness, the stage appeared to be invisible; the actors appearing to walk on water. Light was put into motion by black clad performers, schools of fish and flocks of birds created by synchronized choreography. 

The show was a new interpretation of a well-known tale of forbidden love: a girl disguising herself as a boy in order to go to the university and living with a man who discovers she’s a woman and they fall in love.  Since he is poor and she’s from a wealthier family, her father arranges a different marriage. Bereft, the young lover kills himself.  Upon hearing of his death, the girl jumps into his grave and two white butterflies fly out.  

Impression on West Lake

I have gained so much inspiration from this residency already.  It is always hard to say how an experience in another country will influence my work, and sometimes the impact is indirectly related to the new setting.  Almost every aspect of this trip so far has involved mist and smoke of some form and worked its way into the content of my paintings.  In just three days we travel from Shanghai to Beijing and I am excited to see how this new setting will influence all of our work.

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