Before family life in Johnson County lured, before the visiting professorship at the University of Kansas, Kwan Wu looked set to be the next state sculptor of China.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
Hed been groomed from an early age. His work was displayed at the Canton Sports Stadium, the National Games Stadium in Guangzhou and private commissions in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Wus breakout piece to win acclaim in China was a 100-foot-long, 20-foot-tall memorial of 138 figures signifying Chinas civil war of 1919.
Now he lives and sculpts in Olathe.
Wu is the reason Johnson County might one day be known for an expansive sculpture garden filled with scores of important works from artists around the world.
Its past time to recognize it.
This year, a woman went for a walk in the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens and took offense at one busty creation by another artist from China. The ensuing controversy overshadows the gift to this region that Wu envisions.
No one involved in the planning had fathomed the installations would cause a controversy. Understandably, some within the areas Chinese-American community were shocked and offended.
Wu simply wanted to create a space where the cultures of East and West could be studied and appreciated.
With higher concentrations of Asians on both coasts, Wu thought such a sculpture garden could have more impact here, in the Midwest. And he plans to continue using his international connections to attract donated works from many countries.
There he was Friday night, those famous hands pressing and molding a clay bust into the likeness of Mayor Carl Gerlach of Overland Park. It was a live demonstration of Wus skill at a reception welcoming the Chinese artists whose works were unveiled Saturday as the next phase of installations to the arboretum.
In this area, Wus work includes a life-size depiction of George Brett at Kauffman Stadium and Phog Allen at the University of Kansas. Another piece is an homage to the Bill of Rights displayed at the federal courthouse in Kansas City.
Yes, distinctly North American images.
A U.S. citizen since 1997, Wu said the heavy influence of American culture in his work now is because the immigrant experience is akin to seeing with new eyes.
It is how any experience can influence an artist.
Wu plans an exchange of U.S. artists to China in January for an exhibition.
One of the Chinese visiting artists, Xu Hongfei, spent part of Friday at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
With his nephew translating the Cantonese, Xu said people in their everyday movements are what interest him. It matters little if hes watching that life in China or Kansas City.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.