PHILADELPHIA — Breaking the boundaries of black-box stage and traditional gallery, Chinatown North’s Asian Arts Initiative presents Dream Journeys, a solo exhibition of new works by Beijing-born, Philadelphia-based master puppet theater artist and sculptor Hua Hua Zhang. On view November 1, 2013, through January 24, 2014, Dream Journeys is the artist’s first-ever interdisciplinary gallery exhibition, exploring puppetry simultaneously as sculpture, installation and performance.
A classically trained puppeteer who studied at the Beijing Art Academy, Hua Hua uses Eastern and Western influences to explore universal themes of self and longing for home. Her art is deeply impacted by her childhood under China’s Cultural Revolution, wherein individual creative expression was heavily restricted. The artist describes one piece, “Rhinocerous,” as self-exploration in times of struggle: “When I was growing up, I was taught to be a follower, a paper cutout of the person in front of me and the person in back of me. How do we learn to think for ourselves?”
Hua Hua was a lead performer for the Beijing Puppet Arts Troup for more than 20 years before moving to the United States to study puppetry at the University of Connecticut and found the Philadelphia-based artistic group Visual Expressions, which uses puppetry to broaden audiences’ cross-cultural understanding.
“A puppet is a living sculpture that exists as its own unique vehicle for expression,” says Hua Hua of her chosen artistic medium’s potential to inspire. “Puppet art is for all ages and voices. It penetrates deeply into our hearts, desires and inner thoughts through use of metaphor, abstraction and dreamlike expression.”
The artist’s unique blend of exhibition and performance allows visitors to experience her works on many levels. Viewing the puppets as static works of art will allow audiences to create their own interpretations; as Hua Hua gives life to the sculptures, their stories evolve in unexpected ways. Audiences will have the opportunity to see Hua Hua perform with the exhibition pieces on November 1 and 2.
Schedule of Events
November 1, 2013–January 24, 2014
Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Opening Reception and Live Performance: Friday, November 1, 6 p.m. (performance begins at 7:30 p.m.)
Live Performance: Saturday, November 2, 3 p.m. (exhibition open from noon to 5 p.m.)
Asian Arts Initiative is located at 1219 Vine St., Philadelphia, PA 19107. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 12-6 p.m., and by special appointment. Admission to the gallery is free. For more information, call 215-557-4055 or visit www.asianartsinitiative.org.
About Hua Hua Zhang
Hua Hua Zhang graduated from Beijing Art Academy, where she studied as a performer in the classical art of Chinese puppetry. She worked in the China Puppet Arts Troupe and received many awards for excellence in performance. In 1996, Hua Hua enrolled as a student in the University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts puppet art program, where she was awarded an MFA in Puppet Arts. She also received the University of Connecticut Fine Arts Award for Excellence in 2000.
In 2002, Hua Hua formed her company, Visual Expressions. The company’s original productions include Two Hands, The Monkey King, Butterfly Dreams, Reflections, East Meets West and The Bell, which have been performed throughout America and in international festivals. Hua Hua also designed and performed puppets for a national U.S. television program, Sad Dad, and collaborated with the Masque Theater and the Ming Ri Theater of Hong Kong in Playing With Klee, a U.S./China joint-venture production. Recently, she collaborated with Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers for Earth Mandala, The Fox and Beyond the Bone.
In 2012, Hua Hua received the Best Creativity award for the production of Butterfly Dreams at the 21th annual UNIMA Congress & World Puppet Festival in Chengdu, China, and received three grants for creating New Works of Live Puppet Theater.
Besides creating art, Hua Hua is an educator. She was invited to give a master class at the National Puppet Conference in the O’Neil Center in 2012 and the National American Puppet Festival in 2013; has been invited to give workshops for professional dance and theater companies for inspiration and technique with performing objects; and gives workshops and residencies for schools of all levels across the Mid-Atlantic.