On the pages of art history textbooks, traditional and contemporary Chinese work can seem worlds apart from the American experience. Sometimes, the culture’s essence and vitality get lost in translation.
But Laurie Hicks, a professor of art at the University of Maine, is part of a team of researchers working to make these art forms more accessible to an English-speaking audience. This past summer, Hicks worked as a documentary photographer for ChinaVine.org, a collective that aims to bring Chinese culture to life through narrative, video and photography. During her travels to Beijing and Shanghai, Hicks documented a range of art forms — from traditional gourd engraving and puppet theater to contemporary sound art and zines.
“We’re trying to present this from the perspective of the artists, using their narratives as the basis for understanding their work,” says Hicks, who became involved with the project as a result of previous collaborations with principal investigators Kristin Congdon of the University of Central Florida and Doug Blandy of the University of Oregon. “We want this to represent as closely as possible the experience of the artists and the people who engage with these art forms.”