Two New Public Artworks Celebrate Ancient Arts of Poetry and Kite Making
Kate Patterson, San Francisco Arts Commission
Tel: 415-252-4638 E: Kate.Patterson@sfgov.org
San Francisco-based artists Shan Shan Sheng and Colette Crutcher bring new art to the heart of Chinatown
SAN FRANCISCO, Embargoed until Saturday, July 14, 2012 – Through the City’s two-percent-for-art program, the San Francisco Arts Commission has commissioned two new public artworks by San Francisco-based artists Shan Shan Sheng and Colette Crutcher for the new Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center. While very distinct, both artworks celebrate ancient art forms with strong roots in Chinese culture and history.
“These artworks speak directly to the community,” said Director of Cultural Affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission Tom DeCaigny, “It’s wonderful that this new state-of-the-art facility includes artworks that link to the unique culture and history of Chinatown. I applaud Shan Shan Sheng and Colette Crutcher for their success in reinterpreting honored traditions into contemporary artworks that will be enjoyed by all who visit the Center.”
For the center’s entrance lobby, Chinese-born Shan Shan Sheng created a suspension sculpture that uses language to speak to the unique Chinese American experience in San Francisco and the California landscape. Active Memory is cascade of red Chinese calligraphy that showers visitors upon entry. The artist handmade the glass characters so that they look handwritten. The sculpture’s form, vertical flows of narrative, was inspired by traditional Chinese landscape paintings, which are often inscribed with poems. The sculpture itself is comprised of five poems, two of which are by renowned poets Bai Juyi (772-846) and Li Bai (701-762) of the Tang Dynasty and a poem by Su Shi (1036-1101) of the Song Dynasty. The other poems include an early twentieth-century poem by an anonymous immigrant about his experience on Angel Island and the last by the Artist, with key words describing the lives of Chinese immigrants in the Bay Area, Words such as “gold rush”, “railroad track”, and “computer” invoke the memory of travel, labor and the transformation of America. See the English translation below. Click here for the English text and Chinese translations.
Colette Crutcher’s mosaic mural, titled Playthings of the Wind, located in the playground of the new center, honors China’s 2000-year tradition of kite making. The mural depicts a young child, in traditional dress, holding a string attached to a butterfly kite, which is joined among the swirling clouds and sun by two other kites in the form of a “flying lizard” and bat. The mural continues onto an adjacent wall with a depiction of a dragon kite. Using a combination of stained glass, mirror, broken fragments of Chinese cookery and commercial and handmade tiles, Crutcher captures the kites’ simple, yet fanciful, geometric forms that make it possible for them to defy gravity.