鮮銳2022: 烏托花園 | XianRui 2022: Interior Garden by Cathy Lu
Photo: Aaron Stark, Jenna Garrett
XianRui 2022: Interior Garden by Cathy Lu
January 20 - December 17, 2022
The Chinese Culture Center (CCC) proudly presents Interior Garden, a solo exhibition of new, large-scale ceramic installation works by Bay Area artist Cathy Lu.
From the hands of creation myth goddess Nüwa to the teary eyes of Ruth Asawa, Lu transforms CCC’s galleries into a contemplative space for reconciliation between the promise of the American dream and the dystopian experiences of so many immigrants and people of color in the U.S. For Asian Americans, deemed as perpetual foreigners, model minorities, and scapegoats, feelings of invisibility and hypervisibility are equally potent and disorienting. Referencing two garden creation myths, Immortal Peach Garden and Garden of Eden, the exhibition transforms CCC’s gallery space into an indoor sculpture garden through a series of newly commissioned large-scale ceramic installations.
“Interior Garden” is the seventh iteration of CCC’s decade-long XianRui (Fresh & Sharp) series featuring works by pioneering yet under-recognized artists of Chinese descent.
Cathy Lu (b. Miami, FL) is a ceramics-based artist who manipulates traditional Chinese art imagery and presentation as a way to deconstruct the assumptions we have about Chinese American identity and cultural authenticity. She received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and her BA & BFA from Tufts University. She has participated in artist in residence programs at Root Division SF, Recology SF, and The Archie Bray, MT. Her work has been exhibited at Aggregate Space, Berkeley Art Center, and / Slash Art, SF. She was a 2019 Asian Cultural Council/ Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation Fellow. She currently teaches at California College of the Arts and Mills College and lives in Richmond, CA.
Deemed as perpetual foreigners, model minorities, scapegoats, novelties… feelings of invisibility and hypervisibility in Asian American communities can be equally potent and disorienting. Cathy Lu’s “Interior Garden” surfaces the dream and the dystopian existence for immigrants and people of color in the U.S. As a sculptural takeover of the Chinese Culture Center, Lu’s large-scale ceramic installations transform the gallery’s four distinct but interrelated bays into a garden for contemplation and reconciliation, adopting traditional Chinese garden tropes of rocks, waterfall, pond, and borrowed scenery.
1. Rocks & Rupture// A pile of discarded bricks mixed with ceramic fruits. A set of porcelain traffic cones construct a boundary. During the 1906 Earthquake, San Francisco’s Chinatown was burned to the ground and those who sojourned here would find their transient homes in rubble. Racist politicians — emboldened by the opportunities of natural disasters — were eager to push Chinese immigrants from the city. Chinatown quickly rebuilt using whatever remained, including ‘clinker bricks’— burnt bricks that are warped, glossy, and undesirable for construction. Today, the community remains standing, however, the barriers and borders also remain.
2. Waterfall… Tearfall// The artist’s eyes, Nai Nai’s eyes, Ruth Asawa’s eyes, the Yellow Power Ranger’s eyes… their yellow tears flow perpetually into what would eventually become white noise. Their demands burst through the seams and into the makeshift containers. Their collective catharsis cradles our existence. “Peripheral Vision” is an unsettling meditation on what it means to be an East Asian Woman in America — an experience that is often marginalized, but always peripheral.
3. Pond, Pond, Ponder// In “Drains,” water flows in and wells up from the ornate porcelain drains. The work explores the mysterious and everyday forces that operate in our blindspots. What a power and a vulnerability.
4. Borrowed?// The hands of Mother Goddess Nüwa. To borrow scenery - 借景 - is to incorporate background landscape into the composition of the garden; “Interior Garden” embodies so much physicality that is resistant to belong. With her hands, Nüwa made human beings from yellow clay, supposedly taking over 70 attempts. For immigrant communities, our experiences in American society are oftentimes contingent on what we make and how our work is valued. Lu believes that Nüwa is a maker, a producer, a ceramicist; Nüwa reclaims our creative power and agency.
Where do we go from here? // Finally, we reach the “American Dream Pillows.” The piece is inspired by Song and Tang dynasty ceramic pillows that were thought to influence our dreams and change our realities. Lu asks us to lay on the pillows and navigate our own dreams.
“Interior Garden” has been a two-year process, coexisting with two poignant years for Asian Americans and other communities of color since the global pandemic and subsequent global awakening. While every work extracts from an underlying lived experience, the exhibition provides multiple entries to how we reconcile together. In this yearlong exhibition and programming series, we invite you to sit with your interior garden, tend to its growth, and witness it transform and become its own.
"Interior Garden" is supported by:
Institute of Museum and Library Services
National Endowment for the Arts
California Arts Council
The San Francisco Foundation
San Francisco Grants for the Arts
San Francisco Arts Commission
Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation
Zellerbach Family Foundation
California Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
About Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco
Chinese Culture Center (CCC) is a non-profit arts organization established in 1965. CCC elevates underserved communities and gives voice to equality through education and contemporary art. Rooted in San Francisco’s Chinatown, CCC is a loud and creative voice to uplift social and economic transformation. We provide a safe environment for artists who champion activism, resiliency, and healthy communities. In doing so, we shift dominant narratives, empower change, and reimagine our futures.