Saturday, May 16, 2015

Local Art Seen: Massive Reception for Cheng-Khee Chee at the Tweed

Thursday evening was the opening reception for Cheng-Khee Chee's retrospective, The Way of Cheng-Khee Chee, a retrospective of a half century of work. I can't recall a more crowded Tweed, though their major events these past few years have had comparable crowds turning out for the fanfare. And its no wonder that we saw such a turnout. That his achievements are too numerous to count plays a small part, but his modest disposition and gentle spirit contribute greatly toward making him someone desirable to honor. Here's the introductory portion of his bio:

Cheng-Khee Chee, Associate Professor Emeritus of the University of Minnesota, is a Dolphin Fellow of the American Watercolor Society, signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Transparent Watercolor Society of America (Master Status), Watercolor USA Honor Society and many others. He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Art, Who’s Who in American Education, and Dictionary of World Chinese Artists Achievements. He has been represented in numerous national juried exhibitions and captured over 200 honors, including the American Watercolor Society Silver Medal, Transparent Watercolor Society of America Skyledge Award (First Place), Allied Artists of America Gold Medal, and Knickerbocker Artists USA Grand Award Gold Medal and Purchase Prize for Excellence.

His goldfish paintings are familiar to nearly all of us in Duluth, as his award-winning children's book Old Turtle. And out of all the places in the world that he could have lived, he chose Duluth to be his home.

After a period of mixing Ken Bloom, Tweed Director, managed to still the tumult in order to welcome everyone who had turned out. Bill Payne, Dean of the school's Fine Arts program was introduced. Mr. Payne shared how Chee's watercolors transcend the norm, how his work brings joy to the soul and mind. The man is both gentle and profound. As a professor and member of the UMD staff he has provided decades of encouragement and inspiration to students and has made a difference on the next generation, serving as a sincere role model and mentor.

Peter Spooner curated the show as he had last year's major exhibition featuring the work of Sister Mary Charles. In explaining what curators do, he said, "Chee's work is diverse. Our job is to package it so the public can engage and interpret it." Spooner noted that Chee was born in China with roots in the art of calligraphy. He paintings often seem about that space where simplicity meets complexity.

Mr. Chee was then introduced whereupon he shared a part of his journey, from China to Malaysia and then the past half century in Duluth. Over the years he has been chided now and then by people from afar who say, "What a shame that you live in Duluth, which is so cold." His reply is always, "Yes, Duluth is cold. But Duluthians are hot." If that doesn't warm your heart on a frosty morn, nothing will.

Chee's website (like Picasso, the coin of his name is of such strength is seems diluted with a "Mr." in front of it) outlines his approach to his work.
1. Thorough knowledge of the subject matter.
2. Strong feelings toward the subject matter.
3. Thorough understanding of design elements and principles.
4. Competent craftsmanship for expressing the subject matter in a natural way.
The same principles can easily be applied to writing, public speaking, performing and other arts.

Recommended: Visit the Tweed sometime this summer to see a wonderful exhibit by a master artist.

Cheng-Khee Chee shares his passion.
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For what it's worth another famous Duluthian's art is going on exhibit this weekend, in Youngstown, Ohio. While this week we celebrate Duluth Dylan Fest, Dylan's "Face Off" series goes on display at the Butler Museum of Art there.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

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