Trees are a symbol of life: In Slavic mythology, an Oak tree represents the elements, fertility, and Perun—the mightiest God of the Slavic pantheon. In Hindu culture, the banyan tree is sacred, with its leaves regarded as the resting place of Krishna, the supreme God of tenderness, love, and compassion. And, in North America, the cedar tree is widely used as an emblem of immortality, elevation, protection, and resilience. It is therefore not surprising that trees are an important part of Chinese cultural traditions as well.
Ajuan Song is a Chinese-born artist based in the United States. Her work is an interesting fusion of surrealism, conceptual art, figurative art, and social commentary. She is currently preparing to show her latest work with her upcoming solo show, “Tear of Nature.” On view from August 1st through August 10th at the Manhattan Graphics Center, the series of photographs is a meditation on her homeland’s spiritual traditions closely tied to nature, as well as it’s cultural traditions tied to gender expression.
The show is Song’s “interpretation of how the natural world influences her experience of womanhood.” As such, her work features digitalized silhouettes of a (what I suspect is her) female figure with projected natural landscapes. Interestingly enough, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “in no other cultural tradition has nature played a more important role in the arts than in that of China,” and Song’s work perfectly reflects this idea. We all know that nature, and trees in particular, support life, as we all know that women do the same.
And yet, femininity is an abstract concept, with different cultures defining it in various ways. Even within China, femininity is either dominated or celebrated, depending on which school of philosophical thought you subscribe to, Confucian or Daoist. For a country that gave us the concepts of yin (female) and yang (male), this duality is at the core of how gender expression, as well as the sliding scale of femininity is perceived and understood. This historical association made for a great foundation on which Song built her latest work.
But, perhaps Song says it best:
“To visualize a harmonious union of freedom and control, I overlay the human form with trees, respected in China for their spiritual energies. The nakedness of the human form clothed in tree branches picture an intimate relationship of harmony and peace. I hope my art inspires you to reflect on your personal interconnection with nature, and to take action to protect the nature with which we are one, which is one with us.”
“Tear of Nature” will be on view at the Manhattan Graphics Center located at 250 West 40th Street, 5th Floor New York, NY 10018.
Note* All images were provided by Ajuan Song. | Event Spotlight is a sponsored post by Color Brigade Media