Most days find me at my desk at the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College. Currently I am preparing to travel to China as part of a long-standing faculty exchange between Grinnell and Nanjing University. Faculty from Nanjing come to Grinnell to conduct research and to instruct our students in Chinese language. Faculty from Grinnell travel to Nanjing to conduct research and to teach in their areas of specialty.
In the past week, we've had the chance to visit two places where the focus is on preserving and maintaining the ancient tradition of Chinese woodblock printing. Since at least the Tang dynasty (almost 2000 years ago), the Chinese have used woodblocks to print documents, books, posters and images--a much more efficient process than hand-drawn calligraphy for producing multiple copies. While the creation of the woodblocks themselves is just as laborious, the block can then be preserved and used for centuries if properly stored.
Posted by: Lesley Wright
State Rep. Scott Raecker, a Grinnell alumnus, has introduced a bill in the Iowa Legislature to sell a painting, Jackson Pollock's "Mural," owned by the University of Iowa Museum of Art in order to create a fund to pay for scholarships for art students.
Here is the letter I sent to Representative Raecker explaining why I think this is a terrible idea.
Dear Representative Raecker,
This week has been a flurry of activity at the Faulconer Gallery. Our summer exhibition came down on Monday, and the first of them shipped out Tuesday. By Friday, all four of the new exhibitions were on their way to completion. The walls had been repositioned and prepped. Artists were hard at work on creating site specific installations. Art was retrieved from storage and readied for hanging.
Nanjing is not one of the biggest cities in China. Despite a population of over 7 million, it has a modesty about it. The traffic though congested, flows along in a civilized way, a sort of ballet between cars, bikes, scooters and pedestrians. There are flashy shopping areas, but they aren’t enormous. Most everything is on a reasonable level, a human scale. Anything edgy or provocative is kept under wraps.
This week, our host department, the Office of International Cooperation and Exchanges at Nanjing University, provide a full-day tour of Nanjing, complete with driver and guide. Our guide was a Nanjing native, a 25 year-old masters degree candidate in Linguistics named Yuan Yuan, but who asked us to call her Vivian. Most Chinese students whom we have met have an English name, which Vivian says they typically adopt in middle school as they are learning English. So one of the students in my class, Wang Li, is Lily, another of our assistants, Jia Shi, is Cici, and our very capable program as
Once upon a time, communicating took a great deal of work. Paper was made by hand, writing was done with a handmade pen and handmade ink, and every word was handwritten. Printing presses allowed for multiple copies, but early type was hand carved, hand-set and the pages of text were pulled by hand. Nowadays in our so-called paperless society, children learn to print then go straight to “keyboarding.” Cursive writing is becoming a lost art—will we have to have special classes in creating a signature? Or will those unique scribbles of identity disappear as well?