Chinese folk art from the country’s Shaanxi region will be featured this week in the Mid-America Arts Alliance’s Culture Lab gallery for First Friday in August.
Drawn from a collection of works the gallery purchased in 1992, the exhibit is a preview of “Vibrant Bounty,” a traveling show being organized for 2015. It includes colorful paintings of agricultural life as well as household and children’s items.
Patterned and rhythmic, the tempera-on-paper paintings depict bucolic activities such as collecting goose eggs, shearing rabbits and harvesting sugar cane. Among the objects are a pair of handmade “Baby Tiger Shoes” and a pillow in the shape of a pig.
Attitudes toward peasant life and folk art have undergone dramatic shifts under Chinese communism. Under Mao Zedong, urban youths were sent to the countryside to be re-educated by peasants.
“The paintings come out of a tradition that was part of the Cultural Revolution,” said Mary Kennedy, director of Mid-America Arts Alliance. “If you look at early work from the ’50s and ’60s, it’s exactly what you would expect to see in terms of propagandistic art.”
In contrast, most of the works in the collection date from 1985 to 1991, when the tradition had shifted from government-driven propaganda to “an authentic experience of the peasant painter about the particular part of China where the artists live,” Kennedy said. Huxian, the county in Shaanxi where these artists are based, is now a renowned folk art center.
This fall, Kennedy is leading an arts alliance delegation to China, where she and other staff members will advise Chinese museums about traveling exhibitions and best practices.
The Culture Lab exhibit is being mounted in celebration of that trip, but it’s not the first time these works have been shown.
From 1993 to 2004, the works in “Vibrant Bounty” toured the country in an exhibit called “The Good Earth.” Now, Kennedy said, “we are stepping back. A new scholar will reinterpret and will contextualize the artworks for a more contemporary perspective.”
One of the things that has happened, Kennedy said, is that the work coming out of the region today is more commercial. (According to TravelChinaGuide, an online tour company in China, there are more than 2,000 painters now residing in Huxian.)
And there is also a population shift that may change the way the works in the Mid-America Arts Alliance collection are viewed. Over the next 12 years, the Chinese government plans to move 250 million residents of rural areas, including 2.4 million farmers in Shaanxi, to towns and cities, according to recent New York Times reports.
Two decades ago, the alliance’s exhibit of “The Good Earth” shared rural residents’ sense of pride in their daily occupations. When the same artworks travel in “Vibrant Bounty” beginning in June 2015, they may well be perceived as documents of a dwindling way of life.
“Let the Church Say Amen”
“These pieces are brand new, and they’re biblical and spiritual,” says Sonie Joi Ruffin of her exhibit of fabric collages and mixed-media works, “Let the Church Say Amen,” at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Kansas City.
The show offers a chance to get caught up with the accomplished Kansas City fabric artist, who is also known for a series of spirited exhibits she put together as visiting curator at the American Jazz Museum.
One of the works in “Let the Church Say Amen” was inspired by a report she read recently about 64,000 missing African-American women. Their stories are often eclipsed by those of white women — Chandra Levy, Natalee Holloway — who have disappeared. She has titled the work “Pray.”
Ruffin says it’s a concern “if one is missing.”
“It’s a church. We can pray it up for their safe passage,” she said.
Friday’s opening reception at Grace and Holy Trinity will include a talk on Ruffin’s work by Jan Schall, curator of modern art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and poetry readings by Glenn North and Tracy Milsap.
On Aug. 21, an artist salon will be held at the exhibit from 6 to 8 p.m. Susan Wilson, vice president of diversity and inclusion at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, will moderate a discussion about “Art and Spirituality” with participants Jose Faus, Marcus Cain, Erin Glenn North, Jenny Mendez, Pam Watson, Ritchie Kaye, Mike Toombs and Rodney Thompson.
Beggars Table Church and Gallery
When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.) through Aug. 31
Hours: By appointment
Where: 2010 Baltimore Ave.
“Amy Abshier-Reyes: Here We Are at the Edge of the World”
When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.) through Sept. 1
Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment
Where: 118 Southwest Blvd.
“KC City Racers’ Mark Gonzales and Curtis Kulig”
When: Friday (reception 7-10 p.m.) through Aug. 9
Hours: noon-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday
Where: 405 Southwest Blvd.
The Gallery at Christ Community
“Ruthie Becker: A Whisper Sweet”
When: Friday (reception 5:30-9 p.m) through Aug. 31
Hours: By appointment
Where 1708 Baltimore Ave.
Info: 816-523-2425, Ext. 2401
Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
“Sonie Joi Ruffin: Let the Church Say Amen”
When: Friday (reception 5-8 p.m.) through Sept. 5.
Hours: 1-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: 415 W. 13th St.
Garcia Squared Contemporary
“Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera: Drawing a Blank”
When: Friday (reception 6-10 p.m.) through Sept. 27
Hours: Noon-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment
Where: 115 W. 18th St., second floor
Kemper at the Crossroads
“The Center Is a Moving Target”
When: Friday (open for First Friday 5-10 p.m.) through Aug. 1
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Friday
Where: 33 W. 19th St.
The Late Show
“Still Life: Paula Leffel and Mauricio Zuniga”
“Scott Allen: Cityscapes”
When: Friday (reception 6-10 p.m.) through Aug. 30
Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and by appointment
Where: 1600 Cherry St.
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center
“Kim Eichler-Messmer & Kristin Goering: Echoes of Earth and Sky”
“Brave New World: A Print Installation by Mark Farris”
“Kristopher Clark: Sum Good, Sum Bad & Sum Ugly”
“OMG MAIL: Charlie Mylie & Lindsey Griffith”
“John Gutowski: Exits and Entries,” curated by Elisabeth Kirsch
When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.) Clark, Gutowski, Mylie and Griffith through Aug. 30; “Echoes” and “Brave New World” through Sept. 27
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Where: 2012 Baltimore Ave.
Locust Factory KC
“Erica Kuschel: A Year in a Blink — 365 Days”
Release party for HarbingHer student-run magazine
“Painted Stories: New paintings by Vanessa Rae”
Handmade jewelry and assorted gifts by the Peanut Gallery
When: Friday (6-9 p.m.) and Saturday (noon-4 p.m.)
Where: 504 E. 18th St. (east end of the building)
Main Street Gallery
“Christine LaValley: My Mythology Is Personal”
When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.) through Aug. 24
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
Where: 1610 Main St. (upstairs at Anton’s Tap Room & Restaurant)
Mid-America Arts Alliance
“Vibrant Bounty: Chinese Folk Art from the Shaanxi Region”
When: Friday (reception 6-8 p.m.) through Aug. 22
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 7-22
Where: 2018 Baltimore Ave.
Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art
“Keith Jacobshagen: Embracing the Golden Hour” and “Judy Onofrio: Full Circle”
When: Friday (7-9 p.m.) through August 16
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment
Where: 2004 Baltimore Ave.
Todd Weiner Gallery
“All Nude: Group Show of Local Artists”
When: Friday (reception 5-10 p.m.) through Aug. 25
Hours: 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, and by appointment
Where: 115 W. 18th St.
The Writers Place
“Will Meier: PIX” and “Susan Kurtenbach: Poem Dresses”
When: Friday (reception 6-8 p.m.) through Sept. 26
Hours: 11 a.m-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and by appointment
Where: 3607 Pennsylvania Ave.