August 16 – October 5, 1997
Artists often find ways to express universal sentiments through their art works that can be shared by others. The three artists in our exhibition, Breaking Out: Sculptures by Chinghuey Tiao, Anna Wong, and Wan-xin Zhang, explore the themes of confinement–physical and psychological–identity, and breaking out through awareness and realization.
Most of us behave according to set rules and customs that are either self-imposed orimposed on us by others. Barriers, whether created by societal norms, economic factors, religious beliefs, or cultural values, present themselves as invisible forces that dictate the way we feel, act, and make decisions. Some barriers are meant to enclose and define a group of people with homogeneous ideas and aspirations; others are meant to block the intrusion of outsiders who do not belong in a particular group. Under these invisible barriers, different people have experienced different kinds of obstacles in their lives, and many times we struggle to break out from these constraints that limit our potential for fulfillment and satisfaction.
The theme of confinement is apparent in Tiao’s work. Carving in wood, the artist feels in communion with nature. In today’s society, she sees the disappearance of mysticism and poetic sensation that are found in nature. Man is preoccupied with technology and cyberspace. Patriarchal domination has subdued the feminine nature in man, and advancements in science have alienated man further from nature. In her works, human forms are represented as trapped inside a shell, a cocoon, from which the forms twist and wriggle, and await to emerge in an evolved, altered state.
Zhang’s subjects, on the other hand, literally break out from a wall. The wall symbolizing boundary, impediment, obstruction, is represented as a solid, reinforced mass. Yet it is not indestructible. It can be destroyed by humans as well as by time and the elements. The imagery of the wall as a symbol of barrier–physical, cultural or emotional–can in fact be shattered and overcome. Those who succeed in breaking through the wall, will bring forth the knowledge and experiences accumulated from one side of the wall and integrate them with the other.
Anna Wong’s mixed media constructions make references to her Chinese heritage, interpersonal awakenings, and moments of enlightenment, and how they have helped her in achieving a greater sense of awareness.. Although raised in a traditional Chinese home, as an American, the artist sees her heritage not as a barrier but as a positive force for inspiration. There is no need to relinquish her primal, ethnic culture for another, nor does she have to excise one culture over another.