More than Nostalgia: Our Exhibition in Lake Forest

Location: The Gallery

Address: 202 E Wisconsin Ave, Lake Forest, IL 60045

Check it out if you can!


In the museum of Van Gogh in Netherland, I encountered this palette of him with remains of pigments. At that point, I felt I was so close to the artist yet distant. I felt the sense of intimacy meticulously tracing each crack on the pigments even more than the time when I was complimenting his oil paintings on the wall. However, I was also frustrated by the glass between the palette and me. It was the first time the concept of distance came to me.

A couple years later, I became a curator myself for my dad’s photos of people in the Siming Mountain, the mother mountain that cultivates rural culture in Ningbo. The concept of intimacy is always with me.

I named my first two exhibitions “Nostalgia” because they are exhibitions that trace roots for the urban Ningbo people. For the two exhibitions, I not only displayed photos but also their stories below each. I wanted to establish the feeling of intimacy to the photos with the stories. I reflected on the role of photography. Nowadays, people look at photos on social media for no more than five seconds before they scroll down. During my first exhibition, the approach for me was to use stories to bring people closer to pictures. During my second exhibition, I invited a 96-year-old mother and her 76-year-old son to the opening ceremony so that the audience could interact with them.

After two in Ningbo, I decided to reach global audience. I went to the local art gallery and persuaded them to provide a place for these pictures and their stories. Besides thinking about what I can do with all those photos and stories, I thought about what it means for the old residing in the Siming Mountain for their entire life. They have never been outside of the mountain before, and the exhibitions would not even matter to them. I came up with the idea of not only shortening the distance between art and audience but also the subject of art and the audience. I have made my photos for sale, and I am going to bring the money back to them. I have also encouraged the visitors to leave messages to them so that they know there are also a group of people knowing and caring about them from the other side of the earth. They depend their entire life on labor of themselves and they probably do not realize they need help from others. On our notebook for message, I already received some warming messages praising this caring sense and reflect on the rural life between China and U.S.  I do want to break the geographical isolation and connect to them and the history they have witnessed. For those foreign visitors, I have printed out posters, and I hope they will keep this glimpse of lives in rural Ningbo with them. I, therefore, named this exhibition “More than Nostalgia.”


Nostalgia: The Peasant Secretary

This 94-year-old man named Hu used to be a tenant farmer, an occupation passed down within his family. Their low social status made them oppressed for the most of the time. At one night in 1949, three People’s Liberation Army soldiers came to visit his house. He was so scared that he tried to escape. The soldiers stopped him, telling him amiably that Ningbo was liberated and that they would like to invite poor peasants like him to join the local Peasant Association in Banpu Village. Soon, attending its first meeting, Hu began to work as an honorable grass-roots cadre. The house that he lived in belonged to a landlord previously, and it was given to him and another peasant after confiscation by the government. Hu later became the secretary of Banpu Village. Now, with his wife, he spends the rest of his life in Banpu enjoying a serene lifestyle and an abundant pension. (Banpu Village, Ci City)


Again, the story of Hu shows the theme of how people’s life would be dramatically affected by history. While some people moved downward along with the liberation, Hu moved up. History consists of tons of people’s life moving either upward and downward; Hu is just a small portion of it. He is the lucky one among them. It is fascinating comparing the stories of different individuals living in the same time period.

The Third Time I Met Him

A simple question: When you go to the Louvre Museum, which of the following is the least impressive one?

Mona Lisa


Winged Victory of Samothrace


Venus de Milo



Stitched Panorama

Seated Scribe


All of the five works are on the guide brochure of the Louvre Museum, and every day, tons of people look for them in this complexed palace. I believe that most answers to this questions would be Lamassu as the first three works are the three key highlights of the collections which almost everyone probably knows before coming. The Seated Scribe is not very famous, but from the name and introduction, visitors would gain a basic idea. However, Lamassu does not mean anything to most people, and the history of Assyrian art is unfamiliar to them.

The one in the Louvre Museum was not the first Lamassu I have ever seen in my life.

Last summer, I went to summer school to take the ESL classes for international students in my school. On one weekend, the school took us to the University of Chicago for a campus visit. As walking by the Oriental Institute, we stopped by and took a look inside. The collection where Lamassu belonged was at the end of the hallway. The size of Lamassu was pretty amazing, which was supposed to leave a deep impression on me although I did not know anything about it back then.

However, when I went the Louvre Museum in this summer, I was amazed by this work while listening to the audioguide. Surprisingly, I thought it was my first time seeing a giant Lamassu because I totally have no idea I had actually seen it before. Since I know some historical background this time, I remembered more about it.

This semester, I take art history class. The book says,

Sargon II founded a capital at Khorsabad, surrounded by a city wall with seven gates. Lamassu is the protective spirits placed a either side of each gate as guardians and also bore the weight of the arches above the gate.

From this description, I began to realized the importance of this winged human-headed animal guardian figures. It has five legs in total. When people see it from front, it stands still as if it is guarding the whole city; when people see it from side, it is moving as if it is ready to fight.

Last week when we went to the Oriental Institute in the University of Chicago, again, I met Lamassu for the third time. By looking at it with a deeper understanding, I feel the sense of harmony and stability it gave me. The third time I met him, I feel that the true value of art history is appreciating those less popular art pieces which are always ignored by most people.

That is probably why art history attracts me so much😊.