MUSEUM

OF

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EST. 2018

In Conversation with Yuqiu (Jennifer) Dong

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"Journey into the Unknown" by Yuqiu (Jennifer) Dong.

Acrylic.

Art Selection for the Winter 2020 Museum of Canvas.

Below Canvas Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Herko interviews artist Yuqiu (Jennifer) Dong on her piece “Journey into the Unknown." This conversation is companionate with Lindsay’s previous Museum of Canvas profile on Jennifer in Autumn 2019 regarding her piece

Jill and the Beanstalk

LINDSAY​

 

I am assuming "Journey into the Unknown" is also created in gouache? What work did you created first—"Jill” or “Journey”?

 

 

JENNIFER

 

“Journey into the Unknown” is actually made in acrylic. “Journey” was created first, before I discovered the gouache medium!

 


LINDSAY​


Do you feel there is any connective tissue between the pieces?

 

JENNIFER

 

​I feel like they both have a theme of venturing forth and being brave about what the future might hold. While “Jill” is more of an adventure led on by curiosity and the imaginative spirit, “Journey” is more of a goodbye to the familiar for something new.

 

LINDSAY​

"Journey" is completely exciting to me, as it truly gives the viewer the experience of almost groundless-ness offered in its title. All things present in the image seem to offer us multiple options for interpretation and I feel like I have fled a gravity of expectation when I consider where to start my exploration. To me the image seems esoteric bringing to mind both indigenous culture and its spiritual grail, and the shamanic mystery of Japanese animated films. The curvatures present in the "earth", bushes, bodies—spiritual or figuratively real, all draw our attention to the center of the upper panel which offers us a convergence of branch, mountain, light, land sights, and makes me think every entity looks to the same open space in nature; whether or not we can see what's possible in that space. The unaided human eye may see the space as vacancy, but who is to say what the spiritual eye sees?

Do you think the spiritual eye sees something?

 

JENNIFER

 

The idea behind this painting was inspired by the Trail of Tears, where the Native Americans were forced to leave their ancestral homeland. The spiritual eye may see the sorrow of leaving behind something dear and familiar. The space may represent the empty and hollow feeling of vacancy for something that was always there. However, the faint yellow glow in the space from the morning sun may also represent the faint hope that is always so dearly present in humans in even the starkest situations.

 

 

LINDSAY​

 

When you created "Journey into the Unknown" what was the story you wanted to translate to your viewer through your use of what seems like distinct planes within the piece? I look at these two distinct areas and consider how the northern and southern hemispheres of the piece are working. The assumption is one comments on the other. The lower space seems like the domestic waiting space, that contains unknown energies for years in common objects. Can you also comment on what is going on in the lower hemisphere? Is there an orientation you want us to read this work with, like bottom to top?

JENNIFER

 

The northern and southern hemispheres in this piece do complement each other. The lower space is intended to create a warm feeling of traditional culture. It is meant to contrast with the upper space that shows the figures in the landscape. The two figures on the right seem to be waving goodbye or reaching out to something they are sad to see go. By reading the work from bottom to up, the viewer can experience the transitional feeling of saying goodbye to a comfort one has dwelled in. 

 

 

LINDSAY​

Another reading I had, was the lower panel could be all that remains in artifact of a spiritual tradition. Have you ever felt something strong when witnessing something ephemeral in story, and only seeing the objects that remain?

 

 

JENNIFER

 

​That is a very interesting way of reading the painting! I like the interpretation from top to bottom, although it is not something I considered while painting this piece. I can relate to the strong feeling of only seeing the objects that remain from an ephemeral story. In an art history and archeology course I took this semester, I had the chance to study ancient artifacts and how they were used in their times, and then I was able to actually see the artifact remains during a museum visit.

 

 

LINDSAY​​

I couldn't help but notice the splayed palms of the figures in the lower right corner of the upper hemisphere. Are they making a barrier for us to keep us from entering their realm? Or are they touching the border of realms, or even affirming the "air" is real? What did the palms out mean to you?

 

 

JENNIFER

 

I think those interpretations are all valid and really interesting to consider. To me the palms were meant to show the spirits touching a past they cannot go back to. They are saying goodbye to their beloved homeland.

 

 

LINDSAY​

 

Where in the world do you feel we could get closer to the experience projected in this art?

 

JENNIFER

I think real world locations that may offer a part of this experience may be the Native American reservation lands such as the site of the Navajo Nation. I think lands that have cultural history that are no longer inhabited might portray the feeling even more strongly. I would imagine that while standing on those grounds, one can let their imagination wind back hundreds of years and imagine the history those lands held. Another place would be a museum that holds some of the Native American heritage objects that brings history that survived into the present.

 

LINDSAY​

 

Now that it is autumn—what do you think we aren't seeing that is hidden in plain sight out in the world? What could we offer to nature?

 

JENNIFER

 

Now that it is autumn, I think we are missing the beauty of the moment. Each moment is in plain sight, be it the splendid bright red and orange leaves on the trees and ground or the first pure white snowflakes that touches our cheeks. We could offer nature our appreciation by taking some time to admire the world we walk in. After it rains, we can stop to look at how the whole world looks like a watercolor painting washed in red, orange, and gray.

LINDSAY​

 

​What would this piece of art sound like in the equivalency of music? Or ambient sound?

 

 

JENNIFER

This piece of art would sound both at once hauntingly warm, yet I would imagine very sad as well. It would be a requiem to a cherished memory and at the same time a farewell to something that will become part of the untouchable past.

 

 

LINDSAY​

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about this artwork?

 

 

JENNIFER

 

​The style of the spiritual figures was inspired by some of the Studio Ghibli films I have seen. I was going for a whimsical and otherworldly feel.

 

 

 

LINDSAY​

 

In our previous interview you mentioned liking the art of Aaron Becker and Yuumei, are there any images your particularly like, that we could share with our readers?

 

Jennifer shared:

 

Yuumei’s “My Inner Sanctuary” illustration

https://www.yuumeiart.com/#/my-inner-sanctuary/

 

 

    

Aaron Becker’s “Journey” illustrated storybook

https://www.storybreathing.com/journey/

 

 

When I really think about it, I feel like there are endless examples of magic in this world. Like the feeling a certain piece of art or music can create. That’s magic right there. An example of magic we are not paying attention to day to day is the state of existing and living. We don’t often realize consciously how wondrous it is to be conscious in this world and able to do so many things.

At the time of publication (Winter 2019) Yuqiu Dong attended Cherry Hill East High School in New Jersey. Originally born in China, she has also lived in Houston and Philadelphia. She usually enjoys painting with acrylic and oil paints but also likes to experiment with new media. She believes there are no limits in art and is always eagerly learning new techniques.