During September and October, the Center for Communication and the Arts was home to a little piece of China.
Schuster Gallery, located on the first floor of the building, proudly displayed “Vibrant Bounty: Chinese Folk Art from the Shaanxi Region.”
Shaanxi Province is a predominantly rural area located in central China. Though it has been the capital of 13 dynasties, the people of this region take pride in their down-to-earth, hardworking roots.
This pride is quite evident in the art that has emerged from Shaanxi, which celebrates a rural way of life.
The paintings in this exhibit specifically originated in Hu County and were done in a “Peasant” or “Farmer” style.
This style began evolving in the late 1950s during the Great Leap Forward, a campaign led by Mao Zedong to push China from an agrarian society to a more industrial one.
Peasants initially used art as a source of motivation as they embarked on novel industrial endeavors. For example, they depicted themselves at work in newly built factories. Leaders of the Communist Party loved these paintings and dispersed them as political fodder.
By 1978, many Huxian peasants were disenchanted with Zedong’s leadership and vision for a communist China. Their art moved away from the political sphere and focused more heavily on people’s everyday realities, which is characteristic of the “Peasant” style.
Instead of factories, focus was returned to rice fields, markets, festivals, kitchens and livestock. These snippets of life were all portrayed with mesmerizing patterns and vibrant colors.
Touring the gallery, the paintings really leapt off the walls. Each piece seemed like an affirmation of the dignity and joy inherent in a traditional way of life.
My personal favorite was a scene depicting cows being brought to market. The lumbering black-and-white animals were contrasted with a lush green landscape. Even more striking, the people in the painting clearly enjoyed a close connection with their food and community.
Sadly, these connections are often lost in more urban areas. Rural areas, both in China and around the globe, maintain a special relationship between land and people.
In fact, many parallels exist between Shaanxi Province and the American Midwest; in general, people in these regions are proud of their roots and uphold tradition.
Overall, “Vibrant Bounty” served as a reflection of many deeply held human values, while also showcasing the uniqueness of the Shaanxi region.
Did you miss “Vibrant Bounty”? Fear not! Schuster Gallery’s Christmas show, “A Visual History of Advertising,” opens Monday, Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. The display will run Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. through Jan. 30. More details can be found online at www.facebook.com/SchusterGallery.