New York Multidisciplinary Artist Tong Wang Shows The Value of Life

Tong Wang

NEW YORK, United States — People’s lives have been forced to turn over since the outbreak of Covid-19. Nowadays, some people are still experiencing heartbreaking losses. Life and death are inescapable and hard for every human. In line with Covid-19, however, a stronger desire to live is growing powerfully among the Chinese community. Sensing this power, Tong Wang, a New York Multidisciplinary Artist, created “The God of Safe Trip Wherever You Go” to show one’s support. Wang’s work was displayed at Night Flight, a group exhibition curated by Yizhe Huang, featuring artists Tong Wang, Feizi Wu, and Xianglong Li at RSOAA’s The Royal in Williamsburg.

“Night Flight” features the homesickness of the overseas Chinese community, providing an alternative for the audience to experience various narratives through the connection of art. Due to the global pandemic and political tension between the U.S and China, many people can’t reunite with their families in China like they used to. As a member of the Chinese community, Tong Wang wasn’t excluded from the challenge.

Tong Wang
The God of Safe Trip Wherever You Go

The God of Safe Trip Wherever You Go

According to Tong Wang, the idea of “The God of Safe Trip Wherever You Go” comes from Chinese street advertisements, infinite copies, and stacked forms, which present a huge visual impact and manifest the fantasy of real-life forms and gods. Tong is inspired by the Chinese god of doors, a painting attached to the door during the Chinese Lunar New Year to ward off evil spirits, protect the house, keep the peace, and stay healthy. She transformed original Chinese religious images into fantasy forms with different textures. Even we’re living through a difficult time, Tong calls people to cherish their life by her creations of death, asexuality, and imaging life form and religious appearances.

This masterpiece is one of Tong Wang’s works in “The God of Internet Series” that presents people’s excessive reliance on the Internet. “On the one hand, the Internet can make all kinds of knowledge and information easily accessible, which brings a lot of convenience to life,” Tong explained, “However, the Internet also affects people’s cognitive ability, as our brain receives and processes a large amount of information for a long time, which makes our judgment and ability to think decline continuously.”

Tong’s creation is blended with religion, life, death, mystery, and science concepts. Using elements and symbols of pop culture like cartoons, hip hop music, and video games, she brings audiences unique visual and mental experiences. She aims to express the aspiration for a better life and appeals to the value of life.

Stay Home, Make Your Contribution To The Society?

xianglong li

NEW YORK, United States — There is no doubt that the Covid-19 changed the world and everyone was thinking about what they should do during the pandemic period. When healthcare workers and essential workers were staying on the frontline, artist Xianglong Li was considering how to contribute his effort to the community. After the lockdown, he and his colleagues launched the exhibition Stay Home, Make Your Contribution To The Society to encourage people to reconsider the personal and political conflicts that happened in Covid-19. 

As an artist, Xianglong understands his responsibility and that good artwork is the most effective tool to make his voice heard. His exhibition “Stay Home, Make Your Contribution to The Society” concretized his message to the public, followed by the lockdown policy and increasing racial conflicts. He believes that the pandemic will become less dreadful if people unite, quarantine themselves at home, and respect health workers’ sacrifices. He hopes to encourage people to rethink these conflicts and find the unique value that each individual can contribute through his works.

Xianglong Interview

Xianglong, could you please tell us why you want to curate the exhibition Stay Home, Make Your Contribution To The Society?

The idea popped up when New York City was in lockdown. We were asked to stay at home and Trump’s government advocated the virus was from China. As a Chinese artist who lives in Brooklyn, I felt not only solitude but angry as well. I think the government should ask people to be strong together instead of blaming each other. In addition, I saw some people ignore others’ efforts and insist on going outside. It made me realize that staying at home was the real respect to healthcare workers and other frontline essential workers. This exhibition represents my respect for these people. 

You use ironic criticism in this exhibition. Could you please tell us something about this? What do you want to represent?

A: Chinese is a very complicated and interesting language. I used couplets to demonstrate my thesis in the collection. Different people will have different comprehension about my couplets. From my personal perspective, I hope my work would warn people to avoid traveling and deduce outdoor activities during the pandemic period. 

xianglong li
Stay Home, Make Your Contribution To The Society Exhibition

Your work Learning Chinese with XiangLong, A Collection of Chinese idioms was different from Stay Home, Make Your Contribution To The Society. Could you please tell us what Learning Chinese with XiangLong, A Collection of Chinese idioms talks about?

This new exploration with digital art can be related to my experience as an international student here in America since 2019. I have seen an abundant amount of mistranslation between English and Chinese here. These mistranslations can lead to significant misunderstanding and misconception. For example, my first English tattoo was “be a nice man.” I don’t know why, but every time I show this tattoo to my Western friends, they always laugh, or some menus in the Chinatown have a dish called “Ants climbing a tree,” which is an utterly bizarre translation to my friends whose first language is not Chinese. So I decided to do a series of Learning Chinese videos with animation to teach Western people to understand and use these Chinese words correctly. In a way, this series is me paying homage to my culture or maybe just me remembering how beautiful the language of my country is. Furthermore, I integrate GIFs, 3D Model Materials and texts in these short clips and try to explain some brainwashed cultures in our modern society. The audience is taught by the teaching method of spoon-feeding with visual and auditory scenes and “I” was the teacher to translate Chinese idioms into precise English, But actually, the translation is just what I want to show to the students. 

xianglong li
(Learning Chinese with XiangLong, A Collection of Chinese idioms)

Some people think your work reflects the influence of the phenomenon of pan-entertainment on cultural transmission. Do you agree or disagree? 

Yes, I agree. I create my work with pop culture, animation and social events. With diverse elements, I wish my work not only have entertainment purpose but social responsibility purpose as well. I believe Generation Z  has more power and vision to change the world. 

Gloria Gao Redefines Beauty Through Her Lenses

gloria gao

NEW YORK, United States — There has been an increasing awareness about the illusion of the “perfect body” since 2019, with more American ladies realizing the essence of owning their bodies. In the same year, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which hit a record of 12.4 million viewers on ABC, was canceled due to a public firestorm. This led to more women across the globe realizing that beauty cannot only be defined as a single type – the angel type.

Rejecting the Aesthetic Concept of “Thin and White”

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show development also triggered professionals to make the public discuss beauty more and give them a chance to redefine “the real beauty,” with the likes of Gloria Gao seemingly championing the campaign. The New York City-based fashion photographer realized the peculiarities of this topic earlier than most people, with her artworks helping people to discover more possibilities of beauty in fashion.

Gloria grew up in a traditional family in Guangdong, China, with her strict parent always telling her “what can be done” or “what cannot be done”. After college, Gloria realized her peers were pursuing the aesthetic concept of “thin and white” to the extreme, with the complex social media information flow making it extremely difficult for young girls to distinguish between the most suitable viewpoints. While following others’ opinions seemed to the easiest way, Gloria soon realized that the aesthetic concept of “thin and white” is not an accurate idea from her own opinion. However, the heavy peer pressure made it difficult for Gloria to speak out her idea, leading her to silently pick up the camera and discover her own definition of “beauty” from the lens – the first step for Gloria to get into fashion photography.

Gloria Gao Redefines Beauty
Photo by Gloria Gao

Gloria’s Original Vision in Fashion Photography

After arriving in New York, Gloria felt like she had opened a brand new world. Described as the world’s largest and most culturally integrated city, New York offered Gloria an avenue to set her original vision in fashion photography, discovering the beauty of women of different ages and from diverse races.

Gloria did not have the easiest start to fashion photography. As a newcomer to New York, it was impossible for her to immediately build up relationships and find a suitable fashion designer to collaborate with, as most people could not relate to her challenge. However, Gloria remained focused, visiting offline stores and the designer team individually. Her persistence yielded fruits after getting Stefan Maier, a New York-based fashion designer, to cooperate with her.

Stefan Maier’s clothing was made of environmentally friendly materials. Her design concept just coincides with my original intention. That’s the reason why we would love to collaborate,” said Gloria. After their discussion, Stefan Maier carefully chose clothes, while Gloria interviewed over 60 elderly models to create a unique fashion artwork.

Gloria adopts a unique approach to selecting elderly models, starting with being emotional, which was not easy as the number of elderly models is limited. On the other hand, it may be difficult for an elder to understand her idea of avant-garde fashion photography, making it even more tasking for Gloria to find a fit model. “Honestly, I’m very lucky. Even though the model I finally worked with was not a professional model, she works professionally. She showed the extensibility of the clothing very well, and she fully reflected the ‘beauty of years’ in an accurate way,” Gloria said.

Gloria Gao Redefines Beauty
Photo by Gloria Gao
Gloria Gao Redefines Beauty
Photo by Gloria Gao
Gloria Gao Redefines Beauty
Photo by Gloria Gao

One of Gloria’s artworks focuses on Asian girls and African American girls. These two race groups have always been controversial and vulnerable in the U.S. Gloria is on a mission to change this narrative by working with a vintage store to show the unique style of minority girls by using retro-style clothing.

Gloria Gao Redefines Beauty
Photo by Gloria Gao

According to Gloria, every girl is beautiful and unique. “I have seen irreplaceable personal charm in each of them. I hope to use my own lens to show the diversity of beauty. Maybe they are not beautiful in the public standard of beauty, but who can say that real beauty has only one definition?” Gloria said.

Gloria Gao Redefines Beauty
Photo by Gloria Gao

Book Review No Matter The Wreckage by Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay

NEW YORK, United States — After a long awaited compilation of 10 years, Sarah Kay finally publishes her collection of poems which can only be described as brutally raw, naked and hopeful, which is aptly titled No Matter the Wreckage.

No Matter The Wreckage

Most known for her spoken word poetry and work with Project VOICE, Sarah Kay manages to pull us into her world through her masterful art of painting pictures with letters. One minute you are in India tasting the sweetness of mangoes, the next you are in Hiroshima staring at the metaphorical rubble. And then again, you are brought to post-apartheid Cape Town where you can almost smell the rusty cage in which pigeons were housed. She is unafraid to bring you into her world, and bares her soul for the world to see, and that it is alright to be imperfect. She shows us at all times that she is willing to learn from experiences and to take life lessons away from it.

Some of the poems are not new to those who have followed her videos on YouTube and seen her TEDtalks, so they will be accustomed to infamous pieces such as B, Shosholoza, Montauk and Private Parts. Poems as such, you would doubt, might not have translated well into written form, but it does so perfectly in a different perspective. It is like watching a really good film, and then reading the book and taking a slightly different experience away with it, like reading Lord of the Rings after watching the film, and still enjoying the book afterwards.

Sarah Kay
No Matter The Wreckage – Sarah Kay

In Something We Don’t Talk About, Part I, Sarah manages to show honesty in domestic life and that every family has issues in their own way. Another being Hand-Me-Downs, shows how we can inherit traits from our family, and it may not always necessarily be a beautiful thing. Something We Don’t Talk About, Part II features a deep and naked honesty:

How many times I said yes
How many times I said yes and yes and yes
Because it was what you wanted to hear
And what I wanted you to hear
And what I wanted to want

In No Matter the Wreckage, Sarah manages to give us more of a glimpse into her thoughts and experiences, and each and every one, some sounding like simple and mundane actions which are given a breath of life you would never expect, and others such as Subway, a piece which brings you to the underground of New York and illustrates a perfectly a simple picture of what it feels like to take the subway while it is raining.

The great thing about Sarah Kay is that she not only manages to show you the sadness and rawness of reality, but also the joys in the little things. One of my personal favourites is the playful play on words And Found. Brilliantly simple, I have taken an excerpt that goes:

Don’t sit there.
You might knock over the pile of confidence I took all day to stack.

Simple unadulterated play on words and metaphors. One of Sarah Kay’s key skills is to make everything relatable. Common experiences which we sometimes fail to take notice of just because we are clouded by the white noise around us. One such poem is Love Poem #137 that goes:

My hair is in the shower drain,
my smell on your sweaters,
bobby pins all over the window sills.
I make the best sandwiches you’ve ever tasted.
You’ll be in charge of napkins.
I can’t do a pull-up.
But I’m great at excuses.

Poets as such are few and far between, and if this is what Sarah Kay has to offer in her 20’s I cannot begin to imagine what her life long career and future works will be like. Well, it is an outstanding collection of poems which I do not want to give away too much of, but this collection will only make you wish there was a volume 2. Let’s hope we do not have to wait another 10 years for such brilliance.

Sarah also speaks to us a little bit more about the conception of No Matter the Wreckage.

Sarah Kay
No Matter The Wreckage – Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay: Interview

What made you so willing to reveal so much more about your family history in this collection?

I say this pretty often, but it continues to be true: I use poetry to figure things out. Anything I am wrestling with is what usually ends up appearing in my poetry. Since No Matter the Wreckage includes poetry from a span of ten years of my life, it was inevitable that at some point my family would be included, since there were plenty of times in that decade when I was navigating family dynamics and history. However, plenty of times, a poem is not necessarily about my family, but my family is serving as the setting for the actual subject of the poem. Forest Fires is a good example. It is technically about my ailing grandmother and my father’s grief. But I wrote the poem after a pattern had developed in my life that resulted in me having “near-misses” with great tragedies. That is what I was really puzzling over in this poem: how do I heal from something I did not actually witness?

Sarah speaks briefly about this in the introduction for Forest Fires.

Which of your poems did you just have to include into this collection?

Actually, it was more a question of which poems could I leave out. It was tricky balancing the spoken word favourites and the poems that were written for the page. Creating a cohesive whole that had some sort of underlying structure was important to me, and the order of poems needed to support the flow of stories, ideas, and character development. Poems that did get left out may stay in the drawer, or they may get included in another book. We will see.

Which is the poem that you feel the need to share with others the most?

Hmmm. At any given time and place, it is never the same poem. I believe different people need different poems. That is why I love performing poems for live audiences. I like the challenge of trying to figure out what that room full of people needs or wants on that particular night. I also love that this book will let people read straight through, or pick it up and put it down in order to find the one poem that speaks to them today. I guess right now the poem I am thinking about the most is the poem Ghost Ship, a line from which inspired the title for this collection. I am proud of the conversation it is engaging with and grateful that I can share it with folks through this book.

You can see Sarah perform her latest poem Ghost Ship live and pick up her latest book No Matter The Wreckage which is available on Amazon.

Royal Academy Of Arts: Summer Exhibition 2013

royal academy of arts

LONDON, United Kingdom — The summer brought to London the highly awaited sunshine and, with it, the anticipated event highlighted in every artist’s calendar: The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2013 running until 18 August. Since its establishment in 1769, the Royal Academy holds an annual show where anyone can buy the works of both, internationally acclaimed and emerging artists. This year, the 245th edition of the world’s largest open-submission exhibition has not failed to live up to its reputation among artists and collectors. With its unrivalled merit-based approach to the selection of works, the exhibition also offers an ideal platform for newcomers into the artistic world.

Royal Academy Of Arts: Summer Exhibition 2013
El Anatsui, ‘TSIATSIA – searching for connection’, 2013. Aluminium, (bottle-tops, printing plates, roofing sheets) and copper wire, 15 x 23 metres.
Royal Academy Of Arts: Summer Exhibition 2013
Jolanta Rejs, Apocalypse in fragments (After AD 1511) No. 13, 190 cm x 128 cm, three-block woodcut, 2012

Burlington House, the majestic building hosting the Royal Academy, greets international visitors to the exhibition at the courtyard with El Anatsui’s celebrated 15m x 23m wall-hanging sculpture ‘TSIATSIA – Searching for Connection’, which obtained this year’s Wollaston Award to the most distinguished work in the exhibition. Inside the 14 rooms of the building, more than 1,000 works – carefully selected by prominent artists and architects among the over 10,000 submissions – create a mosaic of different shapes and vibrant colours displayed by painting, sculpture, photography and architecture pieces, among other types of work.

One of the purposes of this exhibition is to raise funds for the Royal Academy Schools, where young talents enrol in a prestigious three-year postgraduate programme in fine art. Marie von Heyl, third-year student at the RA Schools who began her international career in Berlin, explains that she joined the outstanding lecture programme to expand her practice, not only formally but also intellectually.

“The RA Schools maintain a dynamic mix of tutors, complemented by artist talks and lectures. Although I learned a lot, I never felt as a pupil, but as an artist participating in dialogue with other professionals”, says Marie, who, like her peers, this year had the opportunity to curate her own works’ space at the yearly RA Schools Show.

Royal Academy Of Arts: Summer Exhibition 2013
Marie von Heyl, Untitled, 2013, ink on paper / Legless, 2013, Wooden chair legs, spray paint, felt pads, plinth

“My colleagues and I were all aware of the fact that this is an opportunity to be rigorous with the install…although many of us have been exhibiting internationally already, the final show is a shift onto the next level”, explains Marie. In fact, after her graduation, Marie will take up a three-month artist residency at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Scotland before returning to London to focus on Affairs, a broadcasting programme project in collaboration with artist Katrin Albrecht that won the Deutsche Bank Award in Fine Art 2013.

 With two works currently on display at the Summer Exhibition 2013, Jolanta Rejs, 2012 RA Schools graduate from Poland, is developing the successful career in art that she dreamed of since she was 15 years old. With hard work and commitment, Jolanta’s experience at the RA Schools gave her the perfect combination between freedom and guidance. The RA Schools Show taught her to take advice, but also resist criticism and follow her own ideas, “After this experience you feel that you have emerged a few inches more and perhaps you are more visible to others”, explains the talented artist.

In Jolanta’s words, the participation in this exhibition “poses the challenge of resistance but is also an opportunity to sell works and that is definitely invaluable and helps fund further projects”. After the busy and rewarding summer, Jolanta will be purely concentrating on her art practice – and we cannot wait to see her new works.

 With its more than 1,000 works, the Summer Exhibition 2013 has something to offer to everyone – and thanks to the talent of artists like Marie and Jolanta, we can surely look forward to what next summer’s edition might bring.

Royal Academy Of Arts: Summer Exhibition 2013
Marie von Heyl: Mimicry, 2013, glossy paper, lead, plinth / Interlude, 2013, digital video, 3.19 min, looped / The Material World from a Ghost`s Perspective, 2013, digital print