Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Long View

On the shores of Erhai Lake we got caught in the rain.  Even on the water some of the traditional architecture is on display in the form of a pier. 

Legend has it that Dali near Erhai Lake was once a swamp inhabited by dragons. The dragons were believed to deliberately create natural disasters to dispel human intruders.  The Three Pagodas were built to deter the dragons around 823-840 AD.  We had a look at the ancient Three Pagodas before continuing up the foothills to the main Chongsheng Temple.

The view of Erhai Lake below from the main temple is well worth the hike even on a cloudy day.
People of all faiths come to the temple for prayer or meditation.  One lady was patiently escorting an older man slowly up the many steps and steep pathways to the main temple.  I imagine this may have been her father and he may have escorted her through many a challenge in their younger days.

"Generations of Faith"

 By Vicky Gooch
18" x 24" Oil on Linen

From Dali to Kunming to see the Stone Forest and on to Guiyang

View Dali, Yunnan in a larger map

Beauty Seen and Unseen - Vicky Gooch

We were swallowed up by the clouds on our way to the top of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.  We imagined great vistas beyond but could not see them with our eyes.  The air was like a cool damp blanket insisting on our silence.  We could hear the moisture dripping from the trees below with the occasional resonant clinking of the lead Yak’s bell.

Atop the mountain sits the monastery and the keepers of the Yaks.  The clouds parted just long enough to give us a little glimpse into these lives of graceful solitude before making our way back down from the mountain to visit a very special school.

We were welcomed to the school for Baisha Handmade Embroidery of the Naxi People with signs in English and Chinese explaining the history of silk embroidery and the school's mission to preserve the art.  The individual silk threads are so thin as to be nearly invisible.  Yet put together with careful trained hands, they create beautiful shimmering images on fabric.   

This is my painting of a young embroidery school student.  
“Silk Stitches”

By Vicky Gooch
16" x 12"  Oil on Linen

Best Wishes From Lijiang - Vicky Gooch

Lijiang Old Town is in a mountainous region of Yunnan Province. It has cobbled streets along waterways with small footbridges leading into traditional shops in the ancient buildings of the Naxi people. We hung a wish in a forest of wishes to celebrate our anniversary.

From around 618-1279 the Tibetan Bon Religion, Buddhism and Taoism, were introduced into this region affecting the native beliefs of the Naxi people and leading to the Dongba Religion. The Naxi Dongba script was reputedly invented by King Moubao Azong in the 13th century. It is used exclusively by the shamans or priests who are known as Dongbas as an aid to the recitation of ritual texts. Use of the Naxi language and script was discouraged after the Communist victory in 1949, and they were actively suppressed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s when thousands of manuscripts were destroyed. Today there are not many Dongba priests left to read and write the Dongba script. Efforts are being made to revive the script.

This is my painting of the Dongba painting his good wishes for the people.
His hands were sure and steady; his face was a picture of grace.
“Dongba Wishes for You”

By Vicky Gooch
24"x 18"  Oil on Linen

“For family, peaceful life, good health, longevity and happiness;

our best wishes for you.”

In the Shadow of a Dragon - Mary Frankel

Journal Entry: Tuesday, 9/11, Lijiang

A beautiful city bumped up against the mythical Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and home to the Naxi nationality.  The town is lively and bustling with young people. Patagonia style shops line the square selling beautiful hand-woven items.  At night, musicians play in the second-story bars, their music drifting down into the street creating a peaceful, romantic mood.  I am suddenly reminded of Frank Capra’s movie ‘Lost Horizon’, where a group of civilians crash land in the Himalayas and are rescued by the people of the Eden-like valley of Shangri-la. I am drawn to this beautiful place and the people of Lijiang.  

"Naxi (Respectable People)"
Oil on Linen
14" x 11"
by Mary Frankel

We travel north to the Old Town of Lijiang.  We also rode gondolas up to the Jade Dragon (Yulong) Snow Mountain and visited the Dali People and the Three Pagoda Temple overlooking Erhai Lake.

A Splash of Happiness in Xishuangbanna - Mary Frankel

Journal entry Monday 9/10:  Menglun, Xishuangbanna-

“In Menglun we visited a 600 hectare tropical flowers and plants garden.  Lotus flowers, which were in abundance are a symbol of purity and love between a man and a woman.”

"We had a real treat in Menglun, where the Dai minority people were having a festival.  The New Year on the Dai Calendar is celebrated each year with a water-sprinkling festival. Splashing water on everyone is a symbol of blessing and happiness, the more water one is splashed with, the happier one will be.  The festival embodies the prayer for a timely rain and a good harvest. This all takes place in the town center fountain."

"Dai Minority, Water Splashing Festival"
By Mary Frankel

We travel from Guilin and the Li River to Xishuangbanna.

A Feast of Fruit in Xishuangbanna by Vicky Gooch

Lush.  That’s the way to describe the Tropical Botanical Garden in Xishuangbanna.  The Mekong River flows through this area of lush mountainous rain forest.  That’s me with my pack in the middle of all that green.  

The first botanists to decide that this would be the perfect place to do their research are remembered in stone.  They had the idea that they could cultivate the jungle for food and other plant based products. 

Today an area of the botanical garden is kept open for tours.  Many of the houseplants or tropical plants that we use in our own gardens were on display in a super-size!  We were treated to a feast of luscious juicy fruit before we went on our way.  It was all hand-picked and delivered to our shady picnic area via bicycle carts like the one in my painting.

“Bicycle Cart with Pomelos”
By Vicky Gooch

12” X 16” Oil on Stretched Linen

Selling Grapes on the Li River -Vicky Gooch

The Chinese people know they have something special in the Li River.  The rock formations are nothing short of amazing.  Sure, there were fishermen at work and water buffalo along the shore.  But I saw a lot more vacationers enjoying a ride or a swim. We took our ride on a big lazy tourist boat with an open deck to take in the views.  Those tall fuzzy plants along the shore are bamboo.  So the traditional boat is made of bamboo poles lashed together to form a raft.  Fisherman use them with nets on tall poles or big water birds called cormorants who dive in and retrieve the fish which goes into a basket on the raft.  Who needs a rod and reel when you can use a bird!  I think it takes a lot of skill to stay dry on a bamboo raft.
But you should get yourself to the Li River soon!  I discovered that the bamboo raft has a competitor. Check out this lovely little tourist boat on PVC pipe.  It had cozy benches, shade, cooler for your lunch and a speedy motor.  No need to stand and paddle.  Still, it didn't have the same traditional appeal.  It was missing that warm honey colored wood and those dark ribs that announce the bamboo as a living growing thing.
Whenever a big tourist boat happened along, this entrepreneur paddled his bamboo raft out to meet it.  His crate was loaded with grapes to satisfy hot tourists taking in the sights on the upper deck of the tour boats.  This was not a job for the weak or tentative.  He had to push off from the shore and paddle hard.  Then he tie his raft to the side of the bigger boat and passed his produce up to his hungry customers.
Tourism is an important business in this area of China.  I saw so many people bringing their traditional crafts and activities to share with the many tourists from urban China or farther away.  As this flow of curious visitors arrive, the local people respond.  This human connection with each other and the environs caught my attention.  This is what I wish to share with you.  Here’s a peek at the grape seller.

 Detail of “The Grape Seller”
24” X 18” Oil on Stretched Linen

Washing Up on the Li River -Mary Frankel

One of the first outings on our 14 day tour of the Minority Region of China, was a boat ride down the Li River. I was just about to go up on the top deck, when through the door at the back of the boat, I saw this woman attending to her washing. I was captivated by the reflection she created as she splashed water all around her.
by Mary Frankel

Meet the Artists: Vicky Gooch

 This is me with the wind at my back on the Li River in China.

When I was a child I dreamed of driving a big truck so that I could travel the world and meet interesting people. I clearly didn’t know the true size of our world! In 1986 I was watching the 360 degree movie of China at the World Expo in Vancouver Canada.  We had a bird’s eye view of a giant garden of bright green Renoir haystacks split by a meandering river.  It was the Li River. I decided right then and there that I would go there someday.
That someday was last fall.  Guilin and the Li River were first up on our tour of China. The geography and people were just as fascinating as I expected.  

One more thing about me - I love to paint!

We are on our way to Southern China!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Meet the Artist: Mary Frankel

Mary Frankel grew up in the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains and studied architecture and design. In her early thirties, she moved with her family to London, England where she traveled extensively throughout Europe in the incredibly rich artistic environment there.  Frankel’s artistic expression and desire was thus ignited into a passion for painting the landscapes and people passing through her world.  Frankel now divides her time between Texas and Estes Park, Colorado. She has been influenced by and has studied with professional painters who have taught her the techniques to bring light and form to the canvas. Her teachers include; Dan Gerhartz, Carolyn Anderson, Quang Ho and Kim English among others.