Some 37 years after President Richard Nixon made a historic trip to China, the Bakersfield Museum of Art with the help of Heritage of America Educational & Cultural Foundation is hosting its first exhibit of artwork created by artists from all over China. Most of the artwork is done by children and museum officials say the art reflects a more colorful, upbeat and vibrant outlook than in traditional Chinese art.
“What we are going to see in this exhibit is how China has changed drastically in the last 30 years and that the artwork has become much more contemporary, lively, colorful...a whole bent towards a happier nature to the artwork than in the past. It’s not what you would expect,” said museum curator, Emily Falke
The “Colors of China – Paintings, Sculpture and Calligraphy” opened September 17 at the museum and is the first time a group of Chinese artists have exhibited there. The exhibit was conceptualized and coordinated with the offices of Heritage of America Educational & Cultural Foundation in Bakersfield and Beijing. Some 38 of the artists were present for the opening, including some of the children, who were on their first trip to the U.S.
Over 120 pieces are on display, mainly paintings, 80 percent of which are children’s works. Falke said the children’s works show an incredibly high level of artistic skill. Children aged 9-15 were chosen to exhibit and Falke said they are “off the charts beyond what you would see in most other countries.”
The kids’ work in particular shows a “musical, happy, lofty soul” she said.
“There is content in it that is very upbeat which is sort of interesting in a culture that has struggled. It’s kind of interesting, politically, to see where the kids are,” she said.
The adult works are in a more traditional Chinese style, done in oils and acrylics, calligraphy, watercolor and ceramics. Many of the pieces hang on scrolls and almost all the works (adult and children) are for sale in a price range from $800 to almost $5000.
Heritage of America’s Executive Director, Dr. Jess Nieto, said the exhibit is one of the most important to ever be held in Bakersfield. He worked with Dr. Jian Hu, Director of the Beijing branch office of Heritage of America and Zhang Jie, director of the Beijing Tongdao Culture-Art Center - a Chinese art association - to coordinate the artists’ participation.
"Bringing a representative collection of contemporary and traditional, classical Chinese art and calligraphy along with children's art was a challenge but an exciting project for us," said Dr. Hu. The artists were selected based on the outcome of many art contests held in various Chinese provinces where the children competed to represent their country in the U.S.
Dr. Hu said the exhibit is one way to foster understanding between the U.S. and China.
“We hope that Americans will learn more about recent developments of fine arts in China and will like their artworks. Although we know that most Americans may not be familiar with traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, which are different from a Western painting system, we would like to introduce these artworks to the American people and hope that Americans can understand and like these Chinese arts, with thousands years of history,” Dr. Hu said.
Falke said the advanced skills of the children show how important it is for children to receive art education.
“I think it’s remarkable and will be of great interest to our community to see how art is so much a part of culture and schooling in China and how the children have taken this academic lead in arts, probably worldwide. It’s really spectacular,” she said.
“They are a very driven culture and they are also into the arts,” Falke added. “They are culturally rich in the arts and they pay attention to studying arts and have incorporated it into their education.”
Falke and Dr. Nieto agreed that the logistics of such a show were daunting. Obtaining the right artists, choosing the work, shipping it and simply translating titles of works all proved challenging. But a coordinated effort between the museum, Heritage of America and a committee of Chinese artists and people involved in the arts in China worked for over a year to secure the exhibit.
"I really think viewers of this art in this country are really going to be surprised to the sophistication, talent, and expressive creativity of these young artists,” said Dr. Nieto. “We are very lucky and fortunate in Bakersfield for all of us to have pulled off this major exhibit of Chinese art which is quite rare to see."
Some 120 pieces of art by children and adults will adorn the The Bakersfield Museum of Art beginning September 17, in an exhibit curated by the Museum and the Heritage of America Educational and Cultural Foundation offices of Bakersfield and Beijing, under the direction of Dr. Jess Nieto of the Heritage Bakersfield Main Office, and Dr. Jian Hu of the Heritage of America Beijing Office.
The Colors of China: Paintings, Calligraphy and Children's Art, created by youth and adult artists from all over China, includes paintings, pottery and calligraphy.
BMOA Curator Emily Falke said the exhibit is significant, particularly since 2009 marks the thirtieth year of diplomatic relationships between China and the United States. There is a great change in the style and content of the art, she added, and it is more diversified and lively than before, with a combination of traditional and contemporary styles.
Dr. Nieto stated that this project started in November 2008 when Dr. Jian Hu and Dr. Nieto discussed the idea of a major Chinese art exhibit and along with collaborator Zhang Jie approached the Bakersfieled Museum of Art. The idea for an exhibit which would include children's and adult Chinese art was enthusiastically accepted.
More information is available online on the Cultural Exchange page.For more information call:Dr. Jess G. Nieto661-325-5098
September 17 - November 22, 2009
Print by José Guadalupe Posada (1851-1913)
Heritage of America has collaborated with the Bakersfield Museum of Art in presenting and promoting the Day of the Dead / Dia de los Muertos. Throughout the history of our planet all civilizations have developed a justification for death rituals, practices, and commemorations that have passed down through the generations.
In Mexico, in addition to whatever rituals are practiced at a person's funeral and burial, there are two additional days that are set aside - the first and second day of November which is dedicated to all those persons who have departed. This ritual is called the Day of the Dead, or el Dia de los Muertos, and it is rooted in Pre-Columbian indigenous Mexico and these beliefs blended or mixed with the Catholic beliefs of the Spaniards.
The Day of the Dead is the most typical and well-known ritual celebrated in all of Mexico, and it has been celebrated here in what is now the United States since Mexican settlers or pobladores began to populate large areas of the Southwest. Throughout Mexico and in the United States, in gigantic cities and small villages, in humble adobe homes, in mansions, and in palaces, people - rich and poor- honor and celebrate the lives of their departed. And here in California what began in the late 1700s and continues today as a celebration of life of the departed has grown dramatically as the demographic changes seen with the growth of the Mexican and Latino population.
This exhibit is dedicated to the artistic expressions of Mexicans and U. S. Chicano and Latino artists related to the Day of the Dead. Included in the exhibit is art work by the most famous and illustrious Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada (1853-1913) who popularized the use of calaveras or skeletons and skulls in just about every type of imaginable human activity. His use of the calaveras to make social and political commentaries also impacted the artwork of future Mexican and U.S. Chicano and Latino artists as witnessed by the artwork shown in this exhibit.
In addition to the exhibit, plans have been made where Mexican and Latino families and groups in the community have been invited to construct their own altar on Sunday, November 1, 2009 in recognition of a beloved departed family member. These altares will be constructed in the Museum garden from 1:00 to 3:00 PM and the public is invited to view these artistic and cultural expressions. Interested persons can call Beth at 661-323-7219 to obtain a form with the rules for the altares or 661-325-5098 at Heritage of America.
Bakersfield Day of the Dead 2009 - Nick Belardes
About Nick Belardes
Nick Belardes, of Bakersfield, is a graduate of CSU
Bakersfield’s history program. As a poet activist, he read the poem
“Immigration Interrogation” at Beach Park to more than 10,000 activists in
Bakersfield during the 2006 immigration marches.
Prior to that reading, Belardes’ first novel, “Lords: Part One” came out in 2005. That book is a fictional account of the Lords of Bakersfield and tackles related social issues in Bakersfield involving corrupt media and lawmakers, whose hidden stories Belardes believes spawned an urban legend of more truth than fiction.
Belardes latest activist poetry involves southern Central Valley issues including those that affect Chicano Studies and the Modern Languages Program at CSUB that are under an administrative ax. He first read “The Devil and His Goblins” at the Day of the Dead Festival at the Golden State Mall in Bakersfield on Nov. 2, 2009.
A writer, poet and author, Belardes turned TV/online journalist overnight after blogging his way to success on Bakersfield issues. Articles and essays by Belardes have appeared on the homepage of CNN.com and other news sites across America.
Belardes’ Twitter novel, “Small Places” (twitter.com/smallplaces) is the first original literary novel on Twitter, while his current book of oddities “Random Obsessions” is published by the San Francisco imprint Viva Editions, and for some odd reason is popular in the Philippines.
Belardes is currently working on a book of social criticisms on the southern Central Valley, a trivia book on the Central Valley, as well as more than one novel tackling Central Valley issues.
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