The sculptures of Jin, created in a variety of styles, are on display at the Alameda Museum through July 27. (Laura Oda - Staff)
By Brenda Payton, STAFF WRITER of Oakland Tribune
Article Launched: 07/20/2007 02:48:58 AM PDT
The exhibit at the Alameda Museum looks almost like a forest of metal sculptures with rows of mostly large pieces filling the space. At first look, you might imagine it's an exhibit of several sculptors because of the variety of styles. But it's a solo show. "Ten Years in America" features the work of Feng Jin.
"I'm not a famous artist so I don't have to worry that I can't do this or that," Jin explained. "I'm pretty free. I don't want to stay in one style. I like to try new ones. I try every single new idea. There are different feelings to different materials. They tell different stories."
He said he does at least 10 pieces of any new idea to fully explore and learn it.
As a result, he has several series, each in a different style. The Angel Series are abstract, curved shapes that give the impression of movement. The H Series are realistic torsos. The Shadow Sculpture Series are steel wire, painted black, portraits of figures or faces. They cast shadows on a white wall, creating a dramatic interplay between the wire sculpture and its shadow.
"Everything in life has a shadow," Jin said, explaining he discovered the effect by accident. He was working with scrap wire and noticed the shadow created when the sun hit the piece. "I thought why not use this material and do something with the shadow? I think the shadow makes my piece prettier."
"The Sound of Spring," in the Rising Series is an intriguing abstract shape, maybe suggesting a horse, maybe not. The highly polished "head" reflects the body of the observer, collapsing the separation between the art work and the observer.
Jin came to the United States from his native China 13 years ago. He developed his love of metal and tools early, playing in the workshop of his machinist father. When Jin attended art school in China, classes in metal sculpturing were not offered but teachers encouraged him to explore the form. He started with scrap metals and the parts of broken machines.
"For the first two years after I came to the U.S., I didn't make a single piece of art. I was working hard, saving my money," he said. He visited museums in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., to learn from American artists. When he started working at a machine shop in South San Francisco, the owner let him use leftover steel and operate the machines after hours. There he created his first pieces in the U.S.
While still a student in China, Jin worked on a historic sculpture. He and other sculpture students created a 30-foot plastic foam and papier-mache statue, the "Goddess of Democracy," erected in front of a gigantic portrait of Chairman Mao in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 pro-democracy protests. Five days later it was mowed down by a military tank during the June 4 Massacre.
Jin is philosophical about the destruction of the statue. "I'm still alive. That was good for China or bad for China (the protests), I don't know," he said.
He takes a philosophical approach to his artwork in general.
"The language of art is just like Zen, it is in fact unspeakable," he wrote in an artist's statement. He describes his work as a sculptor as "misinterpreting" a piece of clay or metal.
"I like to use 'misinterpreting' rather than 'creating' because the piece of clay or metal itself has never had its choice to become the way it wants to be. I am just an advocate of those natural materials. The beauty indeed came from such a conflict and contradiction."
He said after 10 years exploring the ideas and styles in this exhibit, he's ready to move on to more modern styles with underlying social statements. He's started his next project, which will ask 500 people to give their thoughts about or strike a pose interpreting Buddha, a relatively androgynous figure. The 500 make the thousand eyes and thousand hands of the Buddha.
"It will be a little about religious belief and about gay people. In China, people don't understand (being gay). I don't really understand. At least I know they are just people. If Buddha takes care of everybody, Buddha also takes care of gay people. I don't want my work to be only about love or the human body and nothing about the community and social issues, " he said. "I don't know if the idea is good or not. I will try it."
"Ten Years In America," a solo exhibition of sculpture by Feng Jin, is at the Alameda Museum, 2324 Alameda Ave., Alameda through July 27. Museum hours are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, 1:30 to 4 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Admission is free. Enter through the Alameda Museum gift shop.
To see Jin's sculptures and learn more about the artist, visit http://www.dreamcatchersarts.com.