In 1982 I had the opportunity to organize the University of Minnesota Art and Craft Tour of China. When we were in Hangzhou, I visited the China Academy of Fine Arts (Formerly the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts) to negotiate with the leaders of the Academy about establishing the very first exchange program in the arts with the University of Minnesota. From 1984 through 1987 I led 25 students each year to China to study Chinese watercolor painting and calligraphy. During that time, I was also invited by art academies and organizations to give lectures and watercolor painting demonstrations.
Whenever I visited Nanjing, I always made a point to visit Prof. Li Jian Chen (1900-2002), founder of the Jiangsu Watercolor Research Institute (JWRI) and considered the Father of Chinese watercolor painting, as well as other Institute artists. In 1987 the China Academy of Fine Arts and the Chinese Artists Association organized my solo exhibition, which traveled to nine major cities in China. When my exhibition was presented in Nanjing, I had another opportunity to exchange creative ideas with Prof. Li and the artists of the Institute.
In 1995 Prof. Chang Houxing, the Secretary-General of the JWRI visited the United States, presenting exhibitions and giving lectures. I invited him to do a workshop at the Duluth Art Institute toward the end of his U.S. tour. We spent one week together in Duluth and chatted late into the night every evening. One of his wishes that he expressed to me was to host an international invitational watermedia exhibition in Nanjing. Today, the wish has become a reality and the first Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary International Watermedia Masters is opening at the magnificent new building of the Nanjing Library (Nov. 19-Dec. 2).
To commemorate this important event, Prof. Chang asked me to write an introduction for the accompanying catalog. This exhibition is limited to the Western (Chinese) style of watermedia painting. In the past 50 years, the advancement of this medium seems to concentrate in the U.S. and China; we can see that very clearly from the number of artists represented by the two countries in this exhibition. Out of the about 70 international artists invited, 26 are from the U.S., and 22 are from China.
Knowing that the U.S. has the largest number of outstanding artists, the JWRI asked me to recommend the American artists, with the following criteria for selection:
- Respect the spirit of diversity by selecting artists who represent diverse concepts, subject matter and ways of expression.
- Active in national exhibitions the past 20 years
- Have consistently received important awards in these exhibitions
- Works reflect creativity and uniqueness
- Strong influence through teaching and creativity
- Hold signature membership in major national organizations
With that criteria in mind, I nominated the following artists: Don Andrews, Carole D. Barnes, Mary Todd Beam, Judi Betts, Dan Burt, Ratindra Das, H. C. Dodd, Zhengliang Feng, Jean Grastorf, Serge Hollerbach, George James, Chris Krupinski, Katherine Chang Liu, Ann A. R. Massie, Dean Mitchell, Barbara Nechis, Carla O’ Connor, Jean Pederson, Steve Rogers, Joan Ashley Rothermel, John Salminen, Betsy Dillard Stroud, Janet Walsh, Frank Webb, Lee Weiss, Alan Wylie and Russell Yerkes.
The exhibition will be held at the Nanjing Library from Nov. 19-Dec. 2, with an opening ceremony scheduled for Nov. 20. My wife Sing-Bee and I will be going to China to attend the opening ceremony and give presentations at different forums.
Cheng-Khee Chee (Xu Jingyi) is an acclaimed artist, workshop instructor, illustrator and associate professor emeritus at University of Minnesota. He is a signature member of the American Watercolor Society (Dolphin Fellow), National Watercolor Society, Watercolor USA Honor Society, Transparent Watercolor Society of America (Master Watercolorist) and several others. He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Art and Dictionary of World Chinese Artists’ Achievements.
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