NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | Highland Park Artist Wang Ping Draws Inspiration from the River

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Multi-colored pieces of silk, printed with images and poetry by artist Wang Ping fluttered in the breeze at polar adventurer Will Steger’s Homestead near Ely where they were strung between two pines on February 5. The flag is part of artist Wang Ping’s Kinship of Rivers project, an international environmental art piece that will span the lengths of two of the world’s greatest rivers and create a bridge between the Mississippi and Yangtze.

Wang Ping, author of poetry and prose, photographer, artist and professor of creative writing at Macalester College, draws inspiration from both the Mississippi River, a short block from her home in Highland Park, and the Yangtze River in China, where she was born. The goal of her project, says Wang, ” is to create a sense of kinship among the people who live along the Mississippi and Yangtze through sharing and exchanging art, poetry, stories, music, dance and food.”

The flag that was strung, first outdoors and later moved inside at Steger’s request for better viewing, consisted of ten pieces of silk stitched to a length of string. Six of the images were photographs taken by Wang of the Yangtze River, from its headwaters in Tibet, through the Three Gorges region, to the river’s mouth in Shanghai. The silk pieces also featured three poems by Wang about the Yangtze and Mississippi Rivers and two images by fellow artists Sean Smuda and Ruthann Godollei. Alison Sommer did the printing on silk.

For the past ten years, Wang has been traveling between Minnesota and China to study the ebb and flow of life along the Yangtze River. She conceived of the Kinship of Rivers project as a way, not only to share her stories and photographs from her travels, but also as a way to inspire “gifting,” the giving and receiving of gifts. Wang plans to travel the length of the Mississippi River with a group of artists and students, sharing and collecting gifts of art along the way. She will also return to China with the team to share gifts, such as flags created by people along the Mississippi, at sites along the Yangtze.

Wang says of the flag installation at Steger’s Homestead, “This is the first gift from the Yangtze to the Mississippi.” For more information on the Kinship of Rivers project, visit www.kinshipofrivers.org (coming soon) and Wang’s other websites, www.wangping.com and www.behindthegateexhibit.org.

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