By Dana Kotler MFA 2015
Today we returned to dusty Shanghai from a trip to the beautiful city of Hangzhou. A city where trees canopy the streets, motorcycles and bikes race back and forth, huge mountains hovering above the city in a foggy mist. The city is home to the Central Academy of Art, a university that has several campuses, and is a monster of a school, with every kind of creative major possible.
On our first day there, we visited the Tiger spring. The mountain where the spring originates is covered with wild greenery and bamboo forests. Slightly up the mountain we had a few cups of tea made of leaves that grow in that area. It was after that that we stumbled upon a curious trail of steps running up into the forest. Some 15 minutes of steps into the path, the exhaustion started kicking in, and our curiosity increased with every step. After about half an hour of sweaty staircase climbing, the trees opened up to a thing that may be the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. We were at the very top, surrounded by chains of mountains, floating in a mist of clouds, lake and city far away. The sun was a faded glow, and it felt as if we were inside a traditional Chinese painting. Faraway mountains fading into atmospheric obscurity. That image will stay with me for a while and I feel that it will have quite a profound effect
on my work.
on my work.
Another day, we visited a tea farm, an extremely peaceful area, primarily populated by tea farmers, chickens, cats, dogs, and wealthy families. There we had some more tea. The never ending greenery stretched from right under our feet into the distant foggy mountains, and we finally had the time to make some drawings. We offered Wang Yi paper to draw on, but he refused and said he will spend the time thinking.
We got to visit the studios of some of the local artists that Wang Yi is familiar with, and even got a hand written “New York” in Chinese from a calligraphy artist as a gift. Spacious, beautifully lit studios, in a great cozy community by a lake, where the bathrooms even had toilets. There we had some more tea. The next day we went up to a temple, with giant, heavily decorated Buddha sculptures. We got to make some wishes, and lit incense sticks with the hopes that the Buddha would acknowledge the visiting New Yorkers.
It is quite impossible to describe all our experiences in one blog entry, from being stared at as a curiosity on the streets, to gradually learning the social etiquette of the culture, and of course getting to know all the different foods, and trying to figure out the various aspects of it such as whether it contains “pohrk” or not.
As for the food, we successfully got through eating whole chicken feet in delicious sauce, frogs, snails, crunchy fish with edible faces, soup made of an entire chicken, baked pigeon, fruit and vegetables we’ve never seen before, and many more delicious, but sometimes not easily digestible dishes. One thing not to forget is the delicious MSG, which is a crucial ingredient in most dishes. Today at lunch, we asked Wong Yee what the white powder we were dipping the beef stomach into was, and with a serious face he said, MSG.
On May 26, four Academy students departed New York for a six-week residency in Shanghai. Tamalin Baumgarten, Dana Kotler, Arcmanoro Niles, and Ryan Schroeder (all members of the MFA class of 2015) will share their experiences here throughout the summer.