‘Matter + Spirit’ Explores Chinese Art Scene

By Scott Craig   |   July 23, 2020

The Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum, which remains closed to in-person visits due to COVID-19, offers an online exhibition, “Matter + Spirit: A Chinese/American Exhibition,” which reflects on the perennial tensions between the material and the spiritual in human life and in society, through August 15 at westmont.edu/museum/matter-spirit. The exhibition is a product of a gathering in China of North American art professors with their Chinese counterparts in June 2018. The works in “Matter + Spirit” represent this encounter, its conversations and what was summoned by the artists’ interactions – with China, with the arts scene there and with each other.

Leah Samuelson’s “Real Dragon 1,” wire, plaster, stone and wood mosaic, sea spines (2018)

“Though we are sad we cannot have ‘Matter + Spirit’ physically in the museum, we are excited for visitors to get to experience this exhibition virtually,” says Judy R. Larson, R. Anthony Askew professor of art history and museum director. “The dialogue and interaction between these artists connects their cultures and religion to a commentary on how materiality and spirituality are both intertwined yet separate.”

The exhibition includes several photos, artifacts and a video, “Digging a Hole to China” by Meagan Stirling, Westmont assistant professor of art. “We all followed Meagan as she performed her artwork,” Larson says, “so it is great to see how her project came together and to experience it in context.”

Chinese contemporary art has swept onto the international art scene and is, without question, a leading cultural force. As late as 1990 there were no private art galleries in Beijing. But 20 years later, there were 300 galleries in the capital, energized by the social space that opened up in Chinese society between the state and the market. These forerunners focused on the effects of rapid social change and cultural globalization in China, laying the foundation for the vital and rapidly evolving cultural landscape we see today.

This project is the third of its kind; two prior projects were undertaken in Indonesia in 2008 and in South Africa in 2013. The ensuing exhibits, “Charis: Boundary Crossings (2009-2013)” and “Between the Shadow & the Light (2014-2018)” drew a total of 25,000 visitors as they traveled to more than 30 venues across North America.

The Nagel Institute, the Lilly Fellows Program, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and Taylor University cosponsor the exhibition.


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