sotto altre lune

a cura di Nadia Magnabosco e Marilde Magni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



FOUR ARTISTS FROM BEIJING

Patricia Karetzky

SOURCE: Woman's Art Journal 23 no2 28-32 Fall 2002/Wint 2003

 


The art being produced in contemporary China is varied and rich.
Inheritors of a multifaceted and venerated aesthetic, Chinese artists
today freely draw upon their ancient traditions as well as those from
the West to make art that is part of the evolution of current styles.
Although the four artists considered here have been raised in the same
cultural milieu and all but one even attended the same prestigious
Beijing college, the Central Academy of Art, their artistic disciplines
and styles differ greatly. The women are familiar with each other's
work, and viewing their art and lives together provides a focused
observation of the artistic situation in Beijing and demonstrates the
range of art being produced there. Li Hong and Feng Jyali concentrate
on painting rather realistic portraits, Cai Jin is largely an abstract
painter, though her designs are based on images from nature, and Xing
Fei was trained in classical calligraphy as well as in figure painting.
All are very vocal about the conditions in China for female artists and
for women in general.
Also from Beijing and one of China's most celebrated poets, Zhang
Er is emphatic about the effects of rampant modernization and
capitalistic zeal that dominate life in China. She mourns the
destruction of traditional architecture, replaced now by obliterating
skyscrapers and sprawling malls. Ironically, she points out that
Communist ideology has dissolved in the face of Western materialism,
and China is confused. Former safeguards have been dismissed; the "iron
rice bowl" ethic has been smashed. There are no protections for the
workers. Environmental pollution is extensive: one can no longer see a
blue sky in Beijing, or in other large industrial cities for that
matter. In sum, the value of human life is decreasing under the weight
of new economic agendas.
Zhang Er further explains that ancient gender issues submerged
under Communism are resurfacing. In the past, Mao's dictum of "women
holding up half of the sky" resulted in women being hired without
regard to appearance or age. Now, with Western-thinking agencies and
corporations preferring to hire beautiful young women, those over 40
are being summarily dismissed from their long-held jobs. No longer
entitled to social services, they are given a lump sum, usually the
equivalent of a one- or two-year salary. Without hope of further
employment, financially dependent, and for the most part past
childbearing age, they are no longer desirable partners, and their
families pressure them to regain financial independence. The problem is
exacerbated by the reduction in available jobs: in the transition from
Communism to capitalism, China's workforce faced massive cutbacks.
Additionally, jobs no longer offer social benefits or any guarantee of
sustained employment, and most females over 40 in the workforce are
unskilled and easily replaced by educated younger people. Job
opportunities are thus tied to the whim and social bias of the
employer. Zhang Er talks about their lost souls.
I first became interested in the situation for women artists in
1998, while organizing a show on Chinese literary culture and modern
art. I met several artists in Beijing, and while viewing their work, I
was introduced to their wives, who later confided that they too were
artists. Asked about their art, the women modestly refused to interrupt
the studio visits of their mates. It became evident that because of
cultural conditioning some women artists in China still demur showing
their works. The number of women artists shown in public or private
galleries is astonishingly few. Rather, groups of artists band together
to show their work in their homes. The system of private showings is
not limited to women: under the restricted policies of the Chinese
government, many artists resort to this method to see each others'
works and to create a forum for aesthetic interaction. The situation
for Chinese women artists is not much better abroad: the recent show
Inside Out: New Chinese Art, curated by Gao Minglu at the San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art, which traveled to the Asia Society and PS 1 in
New York City and elsewhere in 1998-99, included only two women among
the more than sixty participants. In subsequent annual visits to
China, I began an investigation of art produced by women, culminating
in a number of exhibitions devoted to the art of contemporary Asian
women.
Li Hong was born in Beijing in 1965. Both of her parents were in
the air force. Her father, a graduate of Beijing University and a
literary editor, was considered an intellectual, and the family was
deliberately sent to Guizhou, a remote village in Sichuan, to be
reeducated by farmers and workers during the Cultural Revolution (1966-
76). To teach them about rural deprivation, their home was denied
electricity. Her parents and two older brothers, then ages 17 and 10,
worked in the fields 12 to 14 hours a day, beginning at 3 a.m.(FN5) Li,
considered too young to work in the fields, was left at home, alone.
When she was seven, in 1972, the family was allowed to return to
Beijing; her parents remained in the military.
In 1992 Li began a four-year program of study at the Central
Academy of Art, where the emphasis was on Western academic training.
She made sketches and paintings of still-life compositions, live
models, and plaster casts. Although technical proficiency rather than
personal expression was stressed, from the beginning Li rejected these
restraints. After seeing Western art in Europe during 1995 and 1996,
she was further inspired to seek her own vision. Accompanying her
husband Fred Jin when he went to England to attend graduate school at
the London School of Economics, she spent a great deal of time visiting
museums, especially the Tate and the National Gallery. In London she
came to admire the emotive paintings of Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud,
and Egon Schiele and enjoyed drawing street characters and recreating
their emotional states. This aspect of modern Western art was in stark
contrast to Chinese academic training, as Confucian values dictated
that the function of art was to be didactic and uplifting, not to
stimulate the emotions. Therefore, the portrayal of images that were
unpleasant, sexual, or martial was generally eschewed in favor of
illustrations of human behavior that were transmuted through the
lessons of history. Such values are still operative in Chinese
institutions of art.
Li met with opposition to the expressive nature of her portrayals
in an exhibit in Beijing that was organized to accompany the 4th World
Congress of Women in 1995. The show was held in the prestigious China
Art Gallery, whose director was shocked at the work's raw emotions and
realistic subjects. Moreover, in works depicting two females together,
she also challenged the taboo against showing more than a single
figure. As a result, her paintings were displayed facing the wall.
Li maintains that feminist principles were always important in her
art. Sensitive to the many ways that women are discriminated against in
China, she early on addressed this issue by making portraits of women.
In 1998 she joined three other Beijing figurative artists, Feng Jyali,
Yuan Yaomin, and Cui Xiuwen, to form an exhibiting group, which they
named the Sirens. They showed in each other's apartments. Their
artistic manifesto reads:
The creation of sirens in Greek tales is a typical aesthetic
version of a patriarchal society where women are always described as
the combination of apparent angels and inner devils. Under the belief
that women are the origin of all crimes, female wisdom and the artistic
value of feminist arts have long been denied. It's time for a change.
The image of allpowerful man, the pattern in most societies, is bound
to be abandoned. Women's voices will be increasingly heard and their
natural endowments will benefit people of both sexes.(FN6)
In Li Hong's work of this period, women in pairs are shown in
somewhat squalid domestic settings--the bedroom, the bathroom, or on a
couch. In The World (1996; Pl. 17), for example, the dispirited women
stare away from the viewer, distracted by their own thoughts. Sometimes
her female figures find solace in each other's company. Her palette is
subdued. Li Hong spoke at length about the problems of women in China.
When asked about Mao's liberation of women, she said that, in fact, his
regime only furthered the inequality. "Women, admitted into the work
force at all levels, administrative and bureaucratic, were asked to do
the same work as men and to act as men with no acknowledgment of the
differences between the sexes and their respective talents and
capabilities." Nevertheless, women did enter the male-dominated world
of work, filling the ranks of local and state governments as well. Li
Hong also claims that the mores from pre-Communist days continue to
haunt women, for example, the convention of concubines and the bias
against middleaged women. She described how the problem was addressed
in a 1996 issue of the magazine Funü Yangjiu (Woman's Research) run by
the Women's Federation of Beijing Municipality. (Each of the 30
provinces has its own version of the publication.) Although the article
argues the case for women over 40, the cover image was that of a pretty
young girl.
By 1997 Li Hong's work began to change. Her images became more
complex; she sometimes incorporated industrial settings, machinery, and
cars into her compositions. The paintings often border on the surreal.
In Conspiracy (1997-98; Fig. 1) two young women are seated in the back
of a yellow car; in the trunk and beneath the chassis, scenes of
physical abuse and torment are portrayed. Brilliant colors illuminate
these paintings--vivid explosions of red and great expanses of yellow
accompany the sensuous lines that define the figures. Li's women reveal
no dominant racial characteristics. Indeed, she seeks to create a
universal tribe of women. Her sensitivity to the situation in China has
made her increasingly aware of the ubiquity of women's struggles
against social, economic, and moral bias. Creatures that surpass any
specific identification, they are clearly sexual, contemporary in their
dress. Largely shown in pairs, they are still introspective, although
at least one engages the viewer. These are modern girls reflecting the
role the West has played in the lifestyle adopted by the younger
generation. Young women dye their hair, wear revealing tight jeans and
short skirts and high-heeled or platform shoes, despite the problems
these fashions pose in bicycling, the main means of transportation. It
has reached the point in the overactive consumer economy that young
women not only buy Western fashions but also submit to cosmetic surgery
to Westernize their facial features or elongate their legs. Some
accompany their appearance with a new kind of behavior: dancing,
uninhibited sex, bar-hopping, smoking, using drugs and alcohol. They
have been inundated with Western movies, MTV, and other popular shows
made available by satellite stations and video cassettes. Li Hong says:
The younger generation is rebelling against the restrictive
government and antiquated social mores. They are rejecting traditional
ideas of femininity and expected feminine patterns of behavior. But
also they are rebuffing the mainstream of women in China who adhere to
such dated notions of social decorum. In the end, this is a divisive
factor in the women's movement, pitting one generation against another.
Li Hong and her husband, who works in finance, moved to the U.S.
in 1998 and live in Edison, New Jersey. She has had some success
selling her work. She now portrays young women of all races in urban
environments--on the street, by the subway, under a street lamp. Shown
in pairs, the girls cling to one another in a hostile setting. In an
untitled drawing from 2000, the women are less confrontational than
those painted a few years before. Here, two figures impassively look
out at the viewer, who is privy to their suffering. The women in her
most recent work are voluptuous and sensuously clad, with distinctive
Asian or African-American features, their eyes brimming with tears. As
Li Hong explains, "They are no longer able to cry, having already shed
so many tears." Li's drawings, extraordinarily skillful and lyrical,
recall in their fluid linearity and precision the old French masters;
but they also convey the disturbed state of mind of the subjects,
revealing the artist's strong social convictions.
Feng Jyali was born in 1963 in Chonqing, Sichuan Province. Her
father, a cloth merchant, died of pulmonary disease during the time of
the Cultural Revolution, and she and her four sisters were brought up
in extreme poverty. She graduated from the Sichuan Fine Art Institute
in 1990, and completed her graduate degree at the Central Academy of
Beijing in 1993. Feng lives in Beijing with her husband, the art critic
Daozi, and their young child.(FN7) A member of the Sirens, Feng also
paints images of women dressed in the provocative Western style sported
by the youth of Beijing, a kind of MTV look. They wear floral patterned
garments, usually tank tops with bikini underpants. These are the
modern young women of China, among whom Feng and her friends include
themselves. Frequently Feng's compositions depict a female couple in a
domestic setting--on a bed with brightly patterned sheets, or in the
aqua green water of a bathtub. The sexual connotations are strong,
defying Chinese Communist taboos against any kind of sexuality.
Beginning in 1949, with the advent of Communism, young couples were
kept separate and had to apply to their local authorities for
permission to marry, sometimes having to wait more than five years.
Until recently, men and women walked side by side, not daring to touch.
The situation has changed considerably, and, scantily clad, the urban
youth now fill the streets, bars, and shops, easily interacting in
intimate ways.
Brilliant and multicolored, Feng's paintings abound in pinks and
reds, blues and greens. The large-eyed women stare into the distance;
their mouths open, they do not smile. Their bright pink faces are
highly made up with lipstick and eyeliner. Sometimes the makeup recalls
the masklike faces of Chinese opera performers; at other times the
bubblegum pink resonates with the laborious artifice of feminine
ministrations, of females relying on their coquettishness, or of the
anonymous mask donned by prostitutes.
In Poetry of Bamboo no. 4 (1999; Fig. 2) Feng has adopted the
Western-style roundel, a format often utilized for Madonna and Child
images, but here the subject is a woman bathing. Such an intimate view
recalls works by artists such as Degas, Cassatt, and Bonnard. The
strikingly posed figure exposes her body in a way that the Chinese find
immoral. Reclining, she lifts her right thigh to lather its underside
and in the process exposes her pubic area. Wearing a shower cap, she
has a bright pink flushed face; her enlarged eyes stare apprehensively
at the viewer, privy to her private moments. Around the ledge of the
green tiled tub are an assortment of bath cosmetics: a square box with
a colorful motif on its top, a smaller box in an hourglass shape, and a
broken scrub brush. A florid design against the back wall features
paired birds and peacock feathers, traditional symbols of femininity.
In Noisy Pillow (1997; Pl. 18) the figure is semi-reclining in
bed. Viewed frontally, her left leg is bent, the right one extended.
The composition chops off the lower legs. Her enlarged eyes glance to
her right, as if following some momentary distraction that is not
important enough to cause her to change her position. The painting
abounds with bright patterns and textures. Her brief camisole, with
green leaves and blue flowers on a red background, exposes her
midsection and black lace bikini underpants. Many pinks make up the
feathery lotus flowers on the painted pillow; a more subdued floral
pattern covers the bedding, and at the lower part of the bed a blue
diamond pattern serves to emphasize her pelvic area. In Western style,
the figure is illuminated from a single light source in the upper left.
Bright light falls across her body, and the light shimmering against
her stomach and upper thighs casts deep shadows. Once again, through
the composition and the arrangement of light and color, the viewer's
gaze is drawn to the woman's public area.
Feng's women are viewed from close up, often so close that parts
of their bodies are outside the picture plane; like fertility dolls,
the ends of limbs are lost along the periphery. The pictorial space is
truncated; the figures appear in the near foreground. Wallpaper
patterns and decorative objects in the background add to the
claustrophobic quality of these intimate scenes. One can almost smell
the perfume and feel the dizzying heat of the interiors. Small in
scale, these works have clearly been influenced by Western art. The
multipatterned interiors, often breathless in their intensity, quote
Bonnard and Vuillard, while the intense colors and expressive brushwork
recall the Fauves. Feng Jyali has taken the images and vocabulary of
art styles forged in the West to portray today's young women in China
and to express her artistic, personal, and sexual freedom.
Cai Jin was born in Anhui Province in southeast China in 1965. Her
father was the leader of a Beijing opera troupe. She graduated from
Anhui University in Wuhu in 1986, and in 1991 received an advanced
degree in oil painting from the Central Academy of Arts. Since 1991 she
has been teaching at the Tianjin Fine Arts Institute, in the northeast.
She spends a great deal of time in Beijing as well as in New York City
with her partner, the artist Xu Bing, and their young child.(FN6)
Although Cai Jin revels in reds--bright fuchsia, ruby red, Revlon
fire and ice red--she disavows any meaning of the use of the color,
claiming that it just makes her feel free. For several years now she
has been painting images of banana plants. She reinvigorates the
withered and dried leaves with red-hued pigments on canvases that reach
wall size. A close examination of the surface finds that the works are
invested with a rainbow of subtle colors hidden in the fibers of the
leaves. In the rich impasto, crepuscular paint forms squiggle and turn,
and the leaves are host to the visceral movement of veins and arteries,
as in Banana #19 (1993; Pl. 19). Both the rich textures and vibrant
colors belie the bent and broken forms of the stalks and their
desiccated leaves. Cai described how, in 1990, she walked through a
field and discovered the plant:
The huge leaves enclosed the pod of the banana plant, with flesh
as red as blood. The original green of the plant was long faded. The
shape and color of this withered tree completely transfixed me: it was
a strange and inexpressible sensation. And somehow it seemed that
inside its trunk and its leaves, the tree was still breathing. After a
few days I was still completely enveloped in the atmosphere of that
plant. One day I took a 100 × 100 cm canvas and began to paint. As my
brush moved automatically across the canvas, I experienced a great
feeling of pleasure, as though I were painting something that was
already completely familiar to me. The viscous plant was like sperm
spreading and wiggling all over the canvas.(FN9)
Cai has painted banana plants in many different permutations,
varying the size, the number of leaves, and the chromatic scale. When
grouped together, they seem an act of meditation, like a musical study
of a theme and variations. The repetition of the banana leaf as a
subject becomes less significant than the extraordinary sense of life
that the works portray. Within the viscous substance of the paint with
its rich build-up of colors, one senses a microscopic world of cellular
growth. Pictorial space is suggested by the overlapping, twisting,
turning leaves, like the calligraphic space created by the swirling of
the ink-filled brush on paper. Cai has been focusing on the plants
since 1991. They grow in her garden in Tianjin, and she photographs
them from different distances and angles, studying the spread of the
leaves and the crescendo of their drooping husks.
Though her subject and painting technique change little, Jin has
been experimenting with surfaces. In Banana 58, from 1995, a queen-size
mattress painted with the motif was placed against the wall of a
gallery in the Beijing Art Museum. Against the floral print of the
mattress cover, the forms surged. But associations with blood on a bed
seem inescapable: violent encounters, childbirth, menses are inevitably
evoked. The designs were even painted on a bathtub, in Banana #147
(1999; Fig. 3). On the rim of the tub is a silk high-heel shoe
decorated with rhinestones; other dress shoes are placed in the tub.
The colors flow over the shoes and seem to drip down the side of the
pristine white tub, pooling at the center. She has also covered oven
mitts, bicycle seats, and pillows with the banana leaf design. In such
works a great degree of drama is acted out, and destructive and cruel
connotations are evoked, though Jin refuses to acknowledge them.
Although Cai had earlier painted with a full palette of colors in
Western style figural studies, she found painting in red tones best
suited her artistic needs. The connotations of red are universal:
blood, reproduction, femininity, violence, and internal organs are
easily evoked. In China, the character for the word color has long had
additional associations. In essence the character se means red and took
on the secondary meaning of danger--danger from bloody wounds, from
reproduction, from emotional entanglements, and from political
alliances because the pillars of state halls were painted red. Today,
however, red commonly symbolizes good luck and happiness. Children are
dressed in red: an auspicious color, it wards off evil influences.
Gifts of cash are slipped into crimson envelopes, and marriage
ceremonial accoutrements are festively red. Of course, in Communist
China red has other political associations--Mao's Red Book, the red
flag, the red star, and the red army. Promotional writing, whether for
merchandising or politicizing, is ubiquitously executed in red script.
When asked about the color, Jin reminisces about her father's opera
troupe, wistfully recalling the beautiful costumes and elaborate makeup
of the actors that peopled her youth.
Cai Jin is represented by the Courtyard Gallery in Beijing and the
Ethan Cohen Fine Arts Gallery in New York.
Xing Fei was born in Beijing in 1958. During the Cultural
Revolution, her father, a pharmacist, was sent to the countryside for
"re-education," while she remained in Beijing with her grandmother. She
won admission to the Central Academy of Art, graduating in 1982. After
several successful exhibitions and inclusion in numerous publications
in China and Hong Kong, she came to New York City in 1984 to study
English at Columbia University with her husband, Dinyar, an expert on
China studies. They have lived in New York with their three children
since then, returning to China on a regular basis. Xing helps support
the family by working in advertising and e-commerce. She has exhibited
at a number of colleges and universities in the U.S.--Columbia, Vassar,
SUNY Albany, Sarah Lawrence, Lehman, Bard, Yale, and Smith, and, along
with Cai Jin, she is represented by the Ethan Cohen Fine Arts Gallery.
Trained as a figure painter, Xing now focuses on calligraphy,
largely a male-dominated medium, although, historically, elite women
sometimes learned to write and were praised for their graceful hand.
However, it was not the feminine hand that she appropriated; rather,
she chose the distinguished "grass script" type of calligraphy of Huai
Su (725-75), whose style and movement she defines as free and powerful.
Her exploration of the artistic possibilities of the written word is
exemplified by Red Book (1995; Pl. 20), in which she recreated a
traditional Chinese ceye, an accordion-shaped book used by the literati
to document their artistic activities and personal feelings. A
horizontal ink-and-gouache composition, it comprises calligraphic
renditions of ancient Tang dynasty (eighth century) poems celebrating
the Yangtze River. The poems range from sad to romantic and passionate,
and it is through the selection of these writings that the artist
creates her own mood. Living far from China, such evocations of home
are poignant. The emotional tone of the piece is inherent in the
sentiments associated with the poems she has chosen as well as the
manner of representation. Xing used a red wash reminiscent of the color
of the Yangtze itself, also the color ancient poets used to describe
the Yangtze sunsets. Her application of the wash--whether thick and
dark, thin and translucent, splotchy or fluid, calm or harried--is in
concert with each poem's mood. Interacting with the calligraphic
writing, the wash pictorially suggests the tone. Like musical notation,
the images unfold along the horizontal surface of the ceye. The kinetic
efforts of the wash and ink read like tempo marks, key changes, and
patterns of musical notes.
Red Book has nonaesthetic associations as well, primarily with
Mao's Red Book. In many ways they are similar--both are red and are
private diaries composed of poems. Concomitant with the association of
Mao's tome are memories of the reverence and blind adulation in which
it was held and the destructive violence it incited. Despite its
lyrical nature, Xing's spilled red wash becomes consonant with the
brutality and vandalism of the Cultural Revolution. For her these are
lasting memories. In speaking of them, it seems as if she wants to
exorcise them through her art. In earlier works they formed a central
theme in her work--the red flag, images of Mao with an umbrella, and
torn pages of classical literature splashed and saturated in red paint.
(FN10)
Beginning in 1989, Xing Fei created Movement--After Huai Su, a
series of installations that are a paean to literary culture. Famous
lines of Chinese poetry are first inked in elegant calligraphic style
on rice paper. Cut into long vertical strips (like the bamboo slivers
of ancient China), the texts are hung from the ceiling in a random
fashion. Familiar phrases appear on the ribbons of paper, their meaning
preserved; but within the context of the piece, the content is lost in
the helter-skelter reconstitution of sections. Sometimes she adds
needle-thin woolen coils filled with thin wire. Bent into shapes that
recreate the linear "grass script," the knitted coils are also
suspended from the ceiling, as at Lehman College Art Gallery, in New
York City, in 1998. Here the artist "wanted to extend further the
artistic point of view." In addition to evoking the rich tradition of
textile designs, Xing finds similarities in the processes of knitting
and calligraphy. In both a single line can have infinite variations.
"The process of knitting is a meditative one. Like writing calligraphy,
it is a single movement, constantly repeated. This act of creation,
whether using lines of ink or wool, is an organic repetition that
creates endlessly." Xing adds, "The handicraft aspects of the art are a
manifestation of feminine creativity that I once expressed in knitting
clothes."
In 2001 Fei returned to the figural traditions in which she was
trained. She used mixed media to document the events in her life in a
series of 19 works on paper, measuring 8" × 10", that she calls
Journey. Combining photo-transfer, text, and illustrations from famous
works of literature, with hand painting in watercolors and ink, she
creates multilayered images. Colorful and dynamic, these works reveal
the complexities of her life and the ancient culture to which she is
inextricably tied. In one she includes and old woodcut from an
illustration from the Ming novel, The Dream of the Red Chamber. The
climactic scene of the reading of a love letter, showing two slim women
standing in a traditional bedchamber, is juxtaposed with a photograph
of her three children sprawled in the foreground. She laughingly
explains that they are the outcome of the amorous letter. Several of
the pieces reproduce an old newspaper photograph of her as a child
painting, an image that anticipated her future vocation. In another, a
Qing dynasty woodcut of Chinese bandits attacking invading Manchu
troops is overlaid with text from the history of the era and topped
with a photo of her and three friends standing in a row, dressed in Mao
jackets; the analogy is clear. An illustration of the infamous
historical account of the gruesome beheading of a Chinese woman by
Manchu troops is on the left of another work from Journey (Fig. 4). On
the right are sections of Mao's writings and above is a lyrical Chinese
landscape of a view through a grand archway onto the covered walk of an
imperial garden.
These four artists from Beijing, brought up in China during the
Communist period and its Cultural Revolution, have a great deal in
common. Educated in the arts, they have chosen to become professional
artists, a choice still unusual in traditional Chinese society.
Although they have encountered the age-old biases of their indigenous
culture, each has made a personal commitment to create art in a
contemporary idiom that is rooted in her cultural heritage while at the
same time addressing its social inequities.
ADDED MATERIAL
Patricia Karetzky is O. Munsterberg Chair of Asian Art, Bard
College, Annandale, New York, and Professor, Lehman College, CUNY.
A Bard College Traveling Grant supported the color reproductions
for this article. All photos were taken by the author.
Fig. 1. Li Hong, Conspiracy (1997-98), oil on canvas, 58" × 45".
Fig. 2. Feng Jyali, Poetry of Bamboo no. 4 (1999), oil on bamboo ware,
approx. 30" diameter.
Fig. 3. Cai Jin, Banana #147 (1999), oil paint on silk shoes in a
bathtub, 40" × 75".
Fig. 4. Xing Fei, Journey (2001), photo transfer, text and
illustrations, 8" × 10".


FOOTNOTES
1. This is the fourth and last stanza of a poem based on an ancient
myth found in the text, The Western Lands: "NuChou was alive but she
was roasted to death by ten suns north of Zhang Fu. Upon the mountain,
she used her right hand to shade her face from the ten suns above"
(1992-95). Translation by Zhang Er and Susan M. Schultz.
2. Zhang Er discussed her ideas with me during a number of
conversations in New York City during the last several years.
3. The catalogue, Inside Out: New Chinese Art, edited by Gao Minglu
(Asia Society and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1998) does not
distinguish the artists by gender; of the 61 artists illustrated, 2,
Chen Hui-Chiao (pl. 63) and Phoebe Man (pl. 65) are female.
4. Confessions: The Contemporary Art of Asian Women (Hammond Art
Gallery, North Salem, N.Y., April 2001) and Femininity in Contemporary
Asian Art: If the Shoe Fits--and Vernal Visions (Lehman College Art
Gallery, CUNY, February 2002, and Bard College, February 2003).
5. Interview with Li Hong, June 2001, in Edison, New Jersey.
6. From The Sirens, a pamphlet printed in Beijing, 1998.
7. Interviews with Feng Jyali, July 2000 and July 2001, at her studio
in Beijing, and by e-mail June 2002.
8. Interview with Cai Jin, June 2001, at her studio in Brooklyn, New
York.
9. Li Xianting, "The Image of Obsession: Cai Jin's Banana Plant
Series," in Cai Jin (Beijing: Peoples' Fine Arts Publishing House,
1995), 2. Translation by Valerie Doranand.
10. Interviews with Xing Fei, 1996-2002, in New York City.