Harmonious Hunan in St. Paul
Chinese calligraphy artists Manzong He and College of Visual Arts President Ann Ledy in front of He’s cursive script interpretations Tung Dynasty poet Bai Gau Yi, which he donated to the CVA gallery.
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL (July 8, 2010) – The gallery of the College of Visual Arts last month held a special exhibition from Saint Paul’s Sister City Changsha, China, including some of China’s most renowned artists – all from Hunan Province.
Many of the artists were present at a July 8 reception at the gallery located in the picturesque Cathedral Hill neighborhood at Western and Selby Avenues in St. Paul. Mayor Chris Coleman was present, as were dignitaries from CVA, Public Art Saint Paul and the US-China Peoples Friendship Association of Minnesota to kick off the three-week long “Harmonious Hunan in Painting, Calligraphy and Photography” exhibition.
Manzong He, a world renowned calligraphy artist displayed several panels of cursive script interpretations based on great Tung Dynasty poets, specifically inspired by Bai Gau Yi – a love story set in the imperial court.
He donated several panels to CVA that drape from ceiling to floor on the back wall. A state artist, He’s work makes money for others on the black market but he realizes none of his fame. It was his first trip to America and he said St. Paul is a very friendly and beautiful place.
Weiming Lu, an urban planning and development advisor in Minneapolis, is also a student of calligraphy, and was present to describe He as an artist of distinction. Lu pointed out that He’s “Bai Gau Yi” panels demonstrate an unmatched eye for “dynamic balance”, which must be considered throughout a cursive project from start to finish.
He compared the work to another calligraphy work nearby with characters that appeared in line mechanically – yet did not exhibit the same rhythm and grace that existed in the multi-panel work.
Master Lei Yixin was present to talk about the role St. Paul played in his getting the commissioned as the artist for the Martin Luther King, Jr. sculpture on the National Mall of Washington D.C.
“St. Paul is my favorite city in America,” said Lei.
It was in 2006 that Lei was here to participate in the Minnesota Rocks! international stone carving event at St. Paul College. Lei created the grand stone sculpture “Meditation” that is now installed at Phalen Lake Park.
He was taking an afternoon nap on the St. Paul College lawn – when officials came to talk to him about the MLK sculpture. He went to work researching the life of Dr. King and said he was inspired to produce a concept. He said that more than 2,000 concepts were considered from more than 52 countries.
Lei said that he was moved by the eyes of MLK. In his eyes he could see a warrior – but a warrior for peace – and though the struggle was for Civil Rights in America in the 1960s, his message resonates internationally to all people who face racism.
Lei said the sculpture is on its way by ship to the United States and that he is going to Washington to ready the pedestal and oversee the instillation that should be ready for a ceremony on September 6, 2010.
Lee didn’t have the scale model of MLK on hand as a preview, however, he did have scaled renditions of two other sculptures since dedicated in China. The first, shows two legendary Chinese leaders, Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai Shek, based on a meeting the two reportedly had led to the creation of the Republic of China on Taiwan.
The second was a rugged looking sculpture of famed U.S. Army Air Corp General Claire Lee Chennault, who led the famed “Flying Tigers” against the Imperial Japanese prior to the U.S. entry into World War II. Chennault and the Flying Tigers are heroes to the Chinese – and especially to the people of Hunan.
The work of more than a dozen other artists and photographers was on display, with featured artists present including Zhu Xunde, Zhang Liping, Hu Liwei and Cao Mingqiu.
Wang Liwen, director, International Exchange Division, Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Hunan Provincial People’s Government, accompanied the artists with a delegation of sister city dignitaries. She said there are nine sister city programs in Hunan, and they each have several programs running simultaneously.
The College of Visual Arts is a private, four-year college founded in 1924. For information on the artists and gallery hours visit online at cva.edu.