By Xiaoming Zhang (Dechen Drolma)
Xiaoming Zhang (Dechen Drolma) is the founder of W. Ming Art, a private art advisory and consulting company founded in 2010. It represents artists for exhibitions and sales, and provides private sales and art advisory services for private and institutional clients globally. Zhang is a key figure in promoting Asian modern and contemporary art to the World. She and her team are committed to strengthening art value for international clients and in the field. Zhang's responsibilities also include helping artists create the global market. See the complete introductions of Xiaoming Zhang (Dechen Drolma) and W. Ming Art here. Zhang’s article is a contemplation on different times and lives during the coronavirus outbreak in Shanghai and New York. Her words transform people’s daily life into a series of classic paintings. Each painting depicts one present moment she lived in the past months, from her parents’ Spring garden in Shanghai to the empty streets in New York City.
Global Lockdown – We are all in this together
I landed in Shanghai from Hong Kong on January 23, 2020 in time to spend the Chinese New Year (January 25, 2020) with family. My arrival in China coincided with the beginning of the national lockdown in China. Since then, I have experienced three phrases of quarantine, all self-isolations I consider to be precious and unique, moments for us to develop inner peace and to reflect.
Shanghai Spring Blossoms – Appreciating families with love
My Shanghai quarantine lasted for almost 17 days at home. It was a time for the traditional Chinese New Year with a celebration cycle of 15 days until the first lunar festival. Being with family, time was short. This time, I felt that I returned back to my childhood. Time was no longer linear; it came and went so quickly. I spent time with my elder parents in our holiday celebration home in the French concession on Hengshan Road. The streets were emptier than those in New York even now. I appreciate every moment spent with my parents, who are in their 80s. They were strong, active and compassionate. It was a time that I gave back to my elderly parents with love and care as they cared for me in previous years. Like a little girl, I still have secrets and new learning to share with my parents. Now my elder parents are my children. We learn to be tender with one another, making and taking our daily meals together. Our daily routine is simple and humble, our meals also turned into more vegetarian ones. Each afternoon, I would take my parents to our garden where it was filled with plum blossoms. Under the plum blossoms, I invited my parents to breathe the sweet fragrance, enjoy the flowers and look in the sky filled with flowing clouds and moving light.
Plum Blossoms in Shanghai, February, 2020. Photo: Xiaoming Zhang (Dechen Drolma)
New York City – Awakening with Spring
My second quarantine began on February 9, 2020 when I returned to New York City from Shanghai. CDC required a 14-day self-quarantine. Now we are in the midst of a lockdown in NYC, which is now the mostly heavily affected area in the world. The number of deaths surpass the numbers following the terrorist attack in NYC on September 11, 2001. “New York is tough!” says New York governor Andrew Cuomo; “Light is at the end of the tunnel!” says the US president Donald Trump.
Every morning, I have my TV switched on for NY governor Andrew Cuomo’s press conference. Every afternoon, I watch the White House Press Conference. The day flies fast, like the clouds moving in the blue sky with the rapid spring wind, with rains and sunrays. Sunset today will be at around 7:31pm. At 7:00 pm outside, I hear screams and applause throughout the city, but I can see few people in public. The sounds of applause reverberate through streets and walls to each home. The sound waves are positive waves for all of us to live with care for one another and to be thankful to others. Manhattan is surreal with empty streets. Often you see the birds and pigeons walking in the middle of the street, they are becoming the city’s prominent residents. You hear birds singing in bushes, we are closer. Nature is breathing again with more air and space and without human disturbance.
This past weekend was a very special weekend for Jewish Passover and Easter Holidays. Synagogues, temples, and monasteries are closed. We stay at home now to pray and to reflect.
We send our condolences to those who lost their lives, we send our care to those who are suffering from Covid-19. Mostly importantly we send our greatest respect to the frontline workers, nurses, doctors, grocery workers, public transport workers and government workers who are selflessly battling with the virus and saving lives. They are the heroes of our time and of our culture. US culture is changing. Perhaps the US will not be a culture of celebrity following this pandemic. Frontline workers have led us to transform and rise from this suffering as a nation and world together. Their leadership for the world lies in their selflessness and devotion to their professions to save lives.
Art as Refuge
In NYC, all business is moving online now. Our team WMING Art successfully launched an online exhibition: Tang Zhigang: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Tang painted children in all his works. The artist wrote: “In the face of smog pollution, mortgages, European refugees, terrorism, COVID-19 and other problems, I am sure that now I am not the only one with a wish to live in childhood and never wake up. In addition to the external social care and internal question meanings, no matter in which of my life stages, playing the role of a child who never grows up is my cultural choice. “
During this crisis, everyone is seeking remedies to cure. Art could be a healing medium to cure through painting, sculpting, videoing, making films and sounds or simply appreciating great art work through viewing. We published Green Tara art by Samden Dakpa and Leslie Temple in Tibetan Buddhism tradition together with mantra singings by Nepal nun Ani Choying Drolma and Swiss mantra singer Dechen Shak-Dagsay. The question for us: what is the function of art in this time of crisis and disasters?
Samten Dekpa, Green Tara, 2005, natural pigment on canvas, 48.5 x 74 inches (123.2 x 188cm)
Image courtesy of W. Ming Art and the artist
Many museums are also making offerings online. Rubin Museum of Art also offered art as healing: a green tara meditation with Sharon Salzberg.
Here is the link to more healing programs offered by Rubin Museum:
In the wake of museum closures, artists are seeking alternative ways to display their art. Here is a glimpse of creatives ways that I learned from Brunswick Art weekly reports:
· Luxury companies have announced new arts-focused programming to engage their communities online and to support artists (Harper's Bazaar). Examples include Bottega Veneta’s new residency and live events ( Artnet) and Alexander McQueen’s Sarabande Foundation offering lectures on creativity (Vice).
· Artists in Berlin are turning their balconies into exhibition spaces (Artnet).
· Japanese artists and musicians are sharing their creative responses to the pandemic on Instagram and Twitter (South China Morning Post).
· Create Cures, Shanghai-based designer Frank Chou’s non-profit initiative, is bringing together international designers to devise products to promote public health (South China Morning Post).
· The New York Times is offering weekly virtual tours of NYC cultural destinations with architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, alongside architects and historians.
We seek remedies in everyday food and in traditional medicines. This month, I collected and studied remedies from the East (traditional Chinese, India and Tibetan medicines). Here I offer healing through food for Covid-19 which comes from ancient India’s Naardi leaves:
1) Tosi seeds
2) Green vegetables, best is freshly picked - satoric, high energy of life force
3) Holy Indian Basel (dark green) - it is a household plant in each Indian home garden that I saw while in Goa
4) Pepper soup
5) Fully cooked food, even with green leaves
6) A lot of hot water
7) Lastly, no fear
The world is at home now. It is a time of awakening. It is not too late to awaken with our inner revelation with care, compassion and love for the world. Be generous to animals, nature, our environment…and each other. The world is transforming back to a healthier one with light. Mostly importantly, transformation needs to come from each of us. Light needs to come from each one of us. We can be the light; the light is in our very heart. Let’s use this time to let go of negative thoughts and to reflect what we have done wrong to our mother earth, to act now, to do good for the society, we transform and awaken like nature in this Spring!
“We'll meet again Don't know where, don't know when But I know we'll meet again some sunny day Keep smiling through Just like you always do 'Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away [Pre-Chorus] So will you please say "Hello" to the folks that I know Tell them I won't be long They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go I was singing this song [Chorus] We'll meet again Don't know where, don't know when But I know we'll meet again some sunny day”
- Vera Lynn, We’ll Meet Again, 1939 British song, music and lyrics by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles
J. Yuan & Associates New York provides consulting services to art collectors and enthusiasts and helps them to own the art that aligns with their identity, values, and goals. Our current newsletter series encourages people in our community to remain healthy and strong and to overcome the difficult time with us together.