September 1 – October 18, 2017
As brilliant as the petals of a lotus and as bold as a spring storm, these folk paintings and artifacts of rural China reveal a national spirit that is as charming as it is vital. By depicting scenes of labor within lavish pastoral settings, the paintings celebrate the farmers’ unity amidst the immensity of nature. The artifacts in this exhibition reveal a humanity that aids us in understanding a people half a world away. Vibrant Bounty: Chinese Folk Art from the Shaanxi Region opens September 1 at the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum.
Vibrant Bounty: Chinese Folk Art from the Shaanxi Region invites visitors on a journey through Shaanxi Province, one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. The capital city, Xi’an, was once the Eastern terminus of ancient Silk Road, and is famous for its ancient ruins, most notably the Mausoleum of Qui Shi Huang and his Terracotta Army. In an area outside of the city’s center lies Huxian (or Hu) County, where, since the 1950s, local artists have been producing objects similar to the twenty-five paintings and fourteen objects found in Vibrant Bounty. This tradition has achieved great renown in China, culminating in the state Ministry of Culture awarding Huxian the honorary title of a “Village of Chinese Modern Folk Painting” in 1988.
These peasant, or farmer, paintings are closely related to the traditional Chinese arts of embroidery, batik (a fabric dying method), paper-cut, and wall painting. The artists use shui fen (paint powder and water—similar to gouache or tempera) on thick paper to create the paintings. While Huxian peasant paintings depict ordinary aspects of people’s lives, the vibrant colors emanate from an animated atmosphere, and are only enriched by frequent hyperbole and moral connotations. Festivals, parades, the harvest, music, village traditions, farm animals, winter, kitchen work, and children are all celebrated in these paintings.
The artifacts included in this collection expose us further to Chinese rural life and they show, in detail, traditional Shaanxi customs. They range from children’s clothing and toys to New Year’s prints and decorative household items, often embroidered with lucky figures and animals. Not only are they carefully handmade and beautiful, they also hold symbolic wishes for good luck, good marriage, and good health. Both the art and the objects featured in this exhibition introduce us to a region of China, which, like the American Midwest, is dominated by agriculture and populated with working people. Through these peasant paintings and the artifacts which accompany them, we gain a greater understanding of the customs and culture of a people who, despite great distances, share with us essential similarities.
This exhibition was organized by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. It will be on display thought October 17 in the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum’s Kinney-Lindstrom Gallery.
This exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than twenty-five exhibitions on tour to over 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. These exhibitions create access to an array of arts and humanities experiences, nurture the understanding of diverse cultures and art forms, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. For more about ExhibitsUSA, email MoreArt@maaa.org or visit www.eusa.org.
About Mid-America Arts Alliance
Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout our region and beyond. We achieve this primarily through our national traveling exhibition programs, innovative leadership development, and strategic grant making. We are especially committed to enriching the cultural life of historically underserved communities by providing high quality, meaningful, and accessible arts and culture programs and services. We believe in more art for more people. Additional information about M-AAA is available at www.maaa.org.