Saturday, February 13, 2016

Drawer 4.3: Wish You Happy Year of the Monkey!

Well, here we go: another China year for us. We've been working our way thru the 12 year cycle of the Shengxiao (生肖), the Chinese zodiac. Our first Chinese New Year in Shanghai we met the Rooster...which means...omg!...we arrived in a Monkey year! We thought we'd stay 2 years, maybe 3 & here we are full cycle! 

Those of you who are Monkeys...born in 1932, 44, 56, 68, 80, 92, 2004...might want to visit Drawer #1.4 to catch up on protecting yourself in your ben ming nian (本命年), your zodiac year. It's all about Red Underwear. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I've been in North Carolina all of January with my head happily down at a Winter Residency at the Penland School of Crafts. I was there, at the invitation of Kathryn Gremley, Penland's Gallery Director, (super big thanks, Kathryn!) to work on an installation for an interesting wedge of outdoor space created by the addition of a new gallery building. 

But I also had fun with the yards & yards of the red fabric called Dong Bei Large Flower Cloth I laid it out as part of my April installation at the Hillyer Art Space in D.C. Dong Bei is a province in  Northwest China (though in Chinese that's Westnorth.) but the fabric is favored all over China. By color - red is for happiness - & imagery - the cloth is associated with domesticity & marriage; it's traditionally used for marriage bed duvets (and to decorate Dong Bei restaurants in Shanghai.)  Older Chinese women have a way of putting patterns together that we'd consider mismatched but utterly sings out to me (though I'm too shy to shoot the pics...)  I gave it a try, mixing four different versions of the Dong Bei cloth - some vintage, some contemporary. I learned a lot about pattern and color values but whether it's going to be an audacious addition to the show or an over-the-top failure is yet to be seen...

A few weeks ago He-Whom-I'm-Trailing came home to a pink notice on our front door. Once we got it translated, it forbid the use of fireworks inside the city limits. We were skeptical that this would dampen the show but, indeed, word on the street from Shanghai is that this year there really were no fireworks inside the city limits. I guess that's the safe & prudent way to go but I'm sure glad we were there for the glory days as it gobsmacked us every here for a minute's worth of video of what used to go on for hours & hours...So, this drawer, with its images taken from the spent firework castings that would land on our balcony, is in honor of all that thrilling firepower. Thank you for looking thru the Cabinet with me & Wish You a Happy Year of the Monkey!

Drawer #4.3: from the top 
1. The Chinese Character for Firecracker & a snarl of dragony-looking green tape 
2. A dragon, the highest animal in Chinese mythology, symbolic of males; with a sticker offering services to those migrants in need of a residency permit 
3. A fenghuang a  mythological bird, part phoenix, part peacock, part other things, symbolic of the females; w/ "happy clouds." 
4. Another fenghuang, more happy clouds, all images taken from the decorative wrappers of firecrackers. 

Photo credits: Full drawer, Bruno David; all others, Christina Shmigel

For more Chinese New Year items, check out Drawer #1.4: Chinese Zodiac Animals;
 Drawer #2.2Things That Don't Fit in a Drawer #4Things that Don't Fit in a Drawer #3