I’ve been working on a portrait of CaiQun for over 6 months now. The resulting image is, perhaps, actually more of a self-portrait-via-still-life. The significance of the chrysanthemum powder is huge: it was CaiQun’s last daily material connection to China for many months after she came home with us. The first two years of her life she drank the warm beverage before mid-morning naps. We quickly learned her routine and, informed by the orphanage, purchased many bags of the powder to bring back to the US with us. I saved the last bag we used. It has, like so many other seemingly inconsequential objects, become a part of my studio environment. As I observed it over the weeks and months after China, it transformed into a kind of icon.
Since I tend to be an observational, perceptual painter, I like to keep items I might paint near me as stimulation and inspiration. I placed the bag into one of my paint boxes. There it sat, situated among paint and brushes and sketches for quite a long time, until one day it grabbed my attention with force. The addition of a few other elements – bottles, a sketchbook I’d used in China, a sketch of festival lanterns – and the stage was set.
The Chrysanthemum Powder (A Portrait of CaiQun), Oil on panel, 16 by 16 inches. 2014. Click to super-enlarge it.
Anyway, I really love this painting.
It goes up in an exhibition next week. If you’re in the mid Missouri area I hope you’ll stop by to see it, another piece I made, and the work of a number of other artists from Mizzou and China. Here’s some info about the show:
East-West Dialogues: Paintings by Chinese Visiting Scholars & Their Hosting Art Professors
Zhonghua Gao, Min Li, Rujing Sun*, Ruiqin Wang, Matt Ballou, William Hawk, Mark Langeneckert, Lampo Leong
Show: August 4-15, 2014
Reception: Tuesday, August 5, 2014, 4-6pm
Craft Studio Gallery, University of Missouri-Columbia
518 Hitt Street, N12 Memorial Union, Columbia, MO 65211, USA
Gallery Hours: Mon-Thurs 9am-6pm, Fri 9am-4pm, Sat 12-5pm
Exhibition organized by the Office of the Vice Provost for International Programs, The MU Confucius Institute, and the MU Department of Art.
*Rujing spent a great deal of time with me in my Color Drawing classes during the Spring of 2014. She’s a wonderful artist and was a pleasure to have in my classrooms.