Sunday, September 18, 2011

Adventures in Multicultural Living: 'Looking Both Ways' at the 'Made in China' label and 9/11 fears | annarbor.com

The wall of 52 faces at the Eastern Michigan University (EMU) Looking Both Ways contemporary art exhibit is striking.

The styles are all different — formal, casual, realistic, cartoonish, playful, even black and white and fake-photoshopped. There are old men and young women, hipster rock stars and craggy-faced workers. There is a high mandarin collar, a hooded sweatshirt, a tie, a baseball cap, spiky dyed hair, a cigarette.

One of the three curators, EMU art education professor Guey-Meei Yang, explains that these are the real people who work at an art factory in Dafen, China. Their job is to paint to order, whatever you want—A painting of your family or a Vincent Van Gogh. Normally prized for their technical precision, self-expression is not particularly valued, and the artists remain invisible behind factory walls.

Then John C. Gonzalez from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, made an unusual order—a self-portrait of every artist who worked in that art factory, in any style. Together, they are a powerful illustration of the real people behind the “Made in China” label.

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