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Emblems Of Ethereal Grace:
Adornments Designed by Pat Tseng

On View at the Center, May 17 to June 22, 1997
Preview Tour of the Exhibit

     Few are the established Chinese jewelry designers successful in this country and fewer still are those who have their creations represented in galleries and major institutions as works of art. Recognizing the contribution of these designers, the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco is pleased to present an exhibition of adornments by San Francisco artist Pat Tseng. The show is divided into four sections. The first is comprised of pieces made with antique and archaistic jades; the second presents modern jade carvings; the third section displays ethnic Chinese motifs and materials, and other types of adornments such as purses and belts; the last section features Tseng's contemporary stones and carvings.

     Pat Tseng has been designing jewelry since the mid seventies and her works have been featured in numerous institutions including the Bowers Museum of Cultural Arts, the De Young Art Museum, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In her necklaces, the artist uses materials such as jades, silver, coral, ivory, and other semi precious stones. Choosing them carefully, she combines these materials with silk cords, painstakingly handsewn to the desired width. These tube like silk cords have become Tseng's signature design. When people describe Pat Tseng's adornments, like general consensus, several terms are used recurrently: refined, ethereal, and graceful.

     In the long history of Chinese civilization, jade has always been one of the most beloved precious stones. It's usages had been associated in the past with magic and ritual ceremonies. It is admired for its purity, hardness, and translucent qualities. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that most of Tseng's adornments are made of this material and influenced by Chinese aesthetics, even though she received her education mostly in the west, where she also studied art and design concepts. Many of the jade carvings used by Pat Tseng in her creations are forms of great antiquity. The plain bi discs and the square cong are shapes that can be traced back to neolithic times. Jade sword guards and scabbard slides, fashioned with openings to fit Han dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) swords, are now transformed into modern pendants. Other popular pendants are the jade belt and garment hooks with heads of arching dragons.

     Besides jade ornaments, Pat Tseng also incorporates antique silver jewelry in her designs. Many are in the shape of locks inscribed with auspicious sayings, originally given to little boys when they were born, in order that they could be "locked" to the earth and to "live long and prosper." On one of Pat Tseng's necklaces is a silver ding or tripod, ornamented with bats (blessings), the shou or "longevity" character, endless knot (longevity) and two goldfish (abundance). It is attached with an ear pick, a pair of tweezers, and a tiny awl. Once part of a peasant's necklace, it has now been transformed into an art form of simplicity and elegance.

The Chinese Culture Center is grateful to Pat Tseng for creating a whole new body of work for this exhibition and for her invaluable input and assistance throughout the project. Special thanks go to Terese Tse Bartholomew, Curator of Indian, Himalayan, and Chinese Decorative Art at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco for contributing her time to this project. Our gratitude also goes to the funding agencies and individuals whose generosity made this exhibition project possible.

Updated: October 04, 2002

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