Painting About The Three Gorges Dam – China


Fragments, Fadings and Feelings

Mills College Art Museum

When I was in China the abstract beauty of calligraphy intrigued me. I bought some children’s textbooks on how to write Chinese script. For centuries the children have learned how to write by copying characters within boxes in order to understand their structure and proportions.

I started to copy the lessons.  Soon my strokes freed themselves from the grid. The “correct” version of the letters was replaced by the “wrong” solution.  Using sumi ink, wax and acrylic paint on xuan paper I put down marks. The shapes and colors mixed and spread into new compositions and brushstrokes. The biomorphic forms of nature took over.

As I painted I thought of the world’s largest hydroelectric dam on the Yangtze River. The Three Gorges Dam transformed the river into a deep reservoir flooding farmland, cities, villages and archaeological sites. People were relocated to new structures of mass produced design, buildings with slick, cold, white tile.

Today’s mass production and permanency of materials is replacing an intuitive expression of life. These paintings are made of materials that are vulnerable to the effects of weathering and our touch. The sun will fade some of the brilliant colors into muddy earth tones.  Fragile paper will tear. But the way xuan paper transmits light, the way people carried out their everyday life on the Yangtze. These memories will stay in my heart.

One thought on “Painting About The Three Gorges Dam – China

  1. Carla, this was the first exhibit I saw of your work so many years ago now. I loved/love them and I love what you’ve written about them here. It helps me to understand so much more about this series, the materials you chose and how they are inextricably connected to the big picture and your personal take on it.


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