Apologies for my long hiatus, however I have been out in the field “doing research” and “collecting data,” if you will. Unfortunately, living in an expansive metropolis has its distractions, and so finding time for my personal reading + journaling, yoga and photography, let alone blogging is often onerous. I often find my time, when not working on projects or tediously copying Chinese characters, being spent meandering though hutongs (traditional Chinese-styled courtyard homes) on my evening bike rides or devising new recipes in my kitchen to fulfill my new found interest in Asian cuisine. Well, the love of Asian food runs deep in my blood, but rather it is the recent discovery of my fondness of cooking that has inspired a great deal of time spent in the kitchen.
Nonetheless, this mornings’ conversation with my Chinese tutor prompted a return from the long lull. After digressing from various grammar topics, we began discussing my interest in the arts. “But to me, art is just so far away,” she stated. Although her English is far from perfect, it was clear that she was implying art was something that felt unattainable. Predominately due to the high monetary value that many contemporary Chinese artists now command, she explained to me how as a middle class member of society, she believed she had no place having an interest in the arts, nor did she think the arts had any relevance to her daily life. As an artist, advocate and admirer of the arts, I found this notion to be rather ironic considering my enthusiasm stems from reasons quite contrary from hers. Then again, I did grow up in the Land of the Free, and she, under the rule of the Red Star.
It was incredible how quickly her thought process changed, and how rapidly a look of revelational awe overcame her facial expression upon giving her the analogy of an artist to a philosopher. She recalled a friend from her high school days: the brightest and most interesting girl who could have easily attended any university and studied to enter any professional career she desired, yet she dropped out to attend CAFA (Centra Academy of Fine Art, Beijing). To her, this was dumbfounding. But I elucidated that artists, like philosophers, had to be intelligent given the nature of their work: theorizing and discussing the environment which surrounds them. However, unlike philosophers whom verbally record their ideology in the form of written text, thus causing their ideas to be accessible only by those whom can comprehend the language in which it was written, artists record and convey their thoughts through a universal language, their artistic medium.
And so, although I was only able to disclose the concept that art is first, and foremost, a universal language and resultantly a powerful educational tool to but one working-class woman, it was my first step towards reshaping the misinformed Chinese perceptions of the purpose of art.