The trip over was uneventful. The United flight was 100% full and too many passengers have large carry-ons, which meant that I had to keep my parka on my lap for the entire trip. It served as a warm blanket. The food in coach on the Beijing fight has become even worse since United took over. This time it was inedible. Once again I had difficulty getting a taxi at the Beijing International Terminal because I was going to an area that was too near the airport. They have become more sophisticated in their excuses. Now it was that I had too much baggage for one person and my one large box was too big for their taxi. Neither of which was true. A van offered to take me along with whatever other passengers he could pick up if I pay 200 RMB. This makes the gypsy cab drivers in New York City waiting at JFK look like saints. Eventually I struck a deal that I would pay the meter plus 20 RMB.
After my normal stop at Jenny Lus to stock up on food and some wine, I was met at the studio by both Lau Shan and Oxy. I knew something was wrong. It turns out that the motor connecting the furnace to the hot water and heat conduits in the studio was no longer any good. The studio was frigid as Beijing has been having a brutally cold winter. It was so cold inside the studio that the olive oil and dish detergent were frozen solid. We made arrangements for someone to come the following morning to replace the motor and get the heating system up and running. It was too cold eat in the studio.
Oxy told me that Febi was all alone at Lauren's studio and asked if she could join us for dinner. At first she said no but at dinner she was very happy to have company as she has been a recluse for the last week. We decided to go to Jin Bin Wei. Although Febi said she was not hungry, she did agree to the choices: Beijing duck [with reduced fat], two types of whipped tofu as an appetizer, lamb sautéed in an iron pot and egg plant. Oxy was very hungry and I was tired but it was good to be with old friends. After dinner, I advised everyone that I needed to try to get to sleep.
I knew it was going to be very cold in the bedroom but I was told that the air conditioner I had could also be used as a heating system. That was true. It took the chill out of the room but it was still very cold. I tried to shiver myself asleep and was successful in that I slept on and off for almost 10 hours.
It started off with a Skype call to Leslie and the twins. I was treated to a series of 8-year-old variations on Jingle Bells. The girls thought they were being hysterically funny. They can see a video of me but Leslie has set up her Skype at home so as not to have video. It is a question of vanity. It was brutally cold in the studio and the weather indicated that the temperature was slightly above 0°F. It was difficult to do any creative work when you are that cold. The person who was supposed to come at 9:00 A.M. to fix the furnace motor could not because Li Gang's infant daughter had been bitten by her older sister's pet rat, and they had to take her to the hospital. But someone else magically appeared and we worked out a deal so that the repairs could begin on my heating system.
Once everyone was working on the heating unit, Oxy and I went off to B&Q to purchase some materials for hanging the new Tuzi Feiji 808 series, including, lumber so I can utilize three of them together as an installation. Oxy then dropped me off near a restaurant in Wanjin where I was to meet Lu Coral and Shen Jingdong. I offered Oxy the leftovers from last night which were in my refrigerator because he wanted to get to work with the people fixing my heating system. But there was no Thai restaurant near where I was left off that I could find. After a telephone call to Lu Coral, I found the restaurant which was fairly near where I was dropped off. She was having lunch with one of her partners in her gallery and her husband, Shen Jingdong. The Thai restaurant was actually near where they lived.
The food was very good but I was falling asleep during lunch. After lunch, we went back to their apartment so I could pick up a computer printout of my train ticket for the next day. The procedure I was instructed to use was that I am to go to the ticket window at the main railroad station with this printout and my passport and the ticket seller will print out tickets that I can use on the train to Zibo and then Zibo to Nanjing. When I returned to the studio, the furnace was working. But, it turned out that the pressure valves for the heating system all froze during the recent Beijing winter so they have to be replaced in order for the heating system to function properly. While they were working on that, I was working on cleaning up the Tuzi Feiji 808 sculpture series. They were quite dirty from the glass foundry but to borrow a cliché, they cleaned up very well.
However, we tried to hang one in the holding units I had constructed at Pratt. It turns out that the measurements given to me did not work. The mushroom part of the base was too thick. So we had a hanging unit installed sans a sculpture. I will have to find wood which is at least 1 ½ inches thick to use for the hanging units for this series. Alternatively, I have to figure out a new solution on how to hang this series.
The heating system also started to leak water. Apparently, two of the valves used to control the overflow had seized and we had to replace those units as well. I decided to replace all of those valves and Oxy brought five valves. Unfortunately, they were not the right size and when he tried to exchange them, the store was closed. I then worked on drawing up new plans for a different type of hanging unit to accommodate the unanticipated thickness for the Tuzi Feiji 808 "stand". I was ready to go to sleep at 6:00 P.M. but decided to fight through it to catch up on my e-mails and try to talk to Leslie and the twins before I faded out. Rather than dinner, I had a couple of glasses of wine, leftover whipped tofu and some liverwurst on crackers. I made it until almost 9:00 P.M. hoping to hear from Leslie and the twins. I could not hold out any longer. I'm going to try to get a good night's sleep in a very cold bedroom and will speak to them tomorrow.
It was another cold gray day in Beijing. The studio was still extremely cold. Neither the cleaning girl nor the people to fix the boiler showed up in the morning as promised.
There was no explanation except that Oxy had made arrangements for the cleaning girl to come back next week and the crew was supposed to come on Monday to finish fixing the boiler and heating system. They were not to be paid until the job was completed.
Zhao Feng did show up as planned. We had to work out some metal fabrication issues that would be very helpful for upcoming major shows in China. It is too expensive and inconvenient to bring over the metal bases needed for the Creative Series and Fish Over Reef Series that I have been showing in the United States. I believe that those are the type of installations that would be ideal for major shows in China. It was a very productive meeting.
Unfortunately, Zhao Feng had to relocate his facility because the apartment complex that had been empty shells for three years came to life last year and the builder now wants to expand to build more apartments in that part of Hegezhuang. Feng's facility was located where the new apartment houses were to be built. A number of new art galleries and other businesses have relocated in this area. When I have a chance, I need to spend some time visiting these new galleries and related businesses. Feng and I went to look for diamond patterned steel plates after I showed him what I wanted on the Internet. There would be fabricated to form a sculptural base for the glass "fish" in the "Fish Over Reef Series"
But it was time to return to my studio before I could see his new facility to get ready to go to Zibo. I had written out detailed drawings and instructions so that there could be fabricated while I was in Zibo and Nanjing. But, Feng felt that I needed to be at the fabrication facility for the entire process. He felt that it was too complex and required work that was original. Since I tend to alter my works as they are created, I knew he was correct. So we agreed that on my return I would come to his new fabrication facility.
Driver Wang was right on-time and we made it to the train station with an hour to spare. Because of restrictive rules on non-licensed cabs, you must pay the driver well in advance. If you are stopped at the train station, you tell the police that he is your friend who has been nice enough to drive you to the station. I wanted the extra time because I had a computer print out of the ticket purchases and along with my passport would be needed for the train tickets to be issued at the station. First, I was directed to the wrong area. When I was finally directed to the right area, a young Chinese man offered to take me there. When we got there, I handed over my passport with the computer printout of the ticket purchases. But, the ticket vendor would only issue me a ticket from Beijing to Zibo saying that the computer printout was unclear as to the ticket from Zibo to Nanjing, even though they were both obviously issued at the same time. So then this person and I went to a special information desk. Eventually, the person from the special information desk took me to another window and a person in front of us got in a fight with the ticket vendor as the time to board my train was fast approaching. The ticket vendor wanted an additional 5 RMB to issue the train ticket. He did not want to cash my 100 RMB bill, so one of the other persons gave me 5 RMB to handle it and would not take a $5 U.S. bill in exchange.
I can't say enough about how helpful everyone was and kept thinking what would happen to a Chinese person who is experiencing this kind of problem at either Grand Central Station or Penn Station?
I made it to the train just on time. Fortunately, I had a first-class ticket and the bag with a heavy metal mold was breaking and it was too heavy to put in the overhead luggage. So I put it on the floor in front of my seat. It was cramped but if I was going regular class it would have been extremely uncomfortable. Everything was covered with snow from Beijing to Zibo as winter was in full-bloom. It was dark and cold at the Zibo railroad station and someone was nice enough to help me with my extra heavy bag to get out to the taxi stand.
I was solicited by the Zibo version of the gypsy taxi drivers at JFK airport. I politely turned down his persistent sales efforts. Everyone cheered me and said that I did the right thing in chasing him off and using a licensed taxi. The check in at the hotel went smoothly and the first thing I did was wash up and go to the local Sichuan restaurant for dinner as I had no lunch – only an orange on the train. I had an interesting chicken dish and the staff offered me a cold pickled cauliflower dish to see if I would like it. It was both delicious and a refreshing contrast. I was tired but the hotel room was a lot warmer than my studio in Beijing. I had difficulty sleeping through the night as I knew I had to get up very early to go to Baishang and the wake-up service at the hotel is not very reliable.
Mr. Xie picked me up at 6:30 A.M. He had an extra passenger so was it was extremely crowded in the back seat. Not only was it dark, but there was a heavy fog/smog which made driving very difficult, especially when you got on the back roads where there were no streetlights. We picked up breakfast at a take-out place. There were street vendors right in front selling competing breakfast foods. After eating breakfast of a hard boiled egg, fried dough and a flat type of dumpling stuffed with cooked vegetables at the glass foundry, we had no choice but to start with the Tuzi Feiji 808 series because none of the old molds had been packed with clay. Because of a miscommunication about the dimensions for the holding units for the Bunny Airliner 808s that I had fabricated a Pratt would not work. Also, we had made a number of mistakes in the original design of Bunny Airliner 808, which became evident when we tried to hang one of the glass bunny airliners at my studio. We had to make some changes in the design. The bottom of the reverse mushroom base for the first attempt to create this sculpture was too large to properly fit into the wood bracket. Also, the balance was all wrong since it was top-heavy to the front, which also meant that it would be difficult to hang.
The first Bunny Airliner 808 sculpture we created was still off-balance, but the second sculpture was on balance as they agreed with my drawings that the pedestal unit should be centered under the wings. We were able to do three red and three blue Tuzi Feiji 808s before the 11:00 a.m. break for lunch. It was brutally cold outside. It was much warmer inside the glass foundry but still very cold when you are not very near the main kiln or glory hole.
Two sides of the glass foundry are built into the side of a large hill, but the other two sides of the foundry are open. During lunch, they put up some plastic sheets to act as walls to try to make the foundry warmer. It was of some help but it was still very cold, except when you were near the glass kiln or the glory hole. After lunch, the clay was dry on the one side nearest the glass kilns, so we had no choice but to make some more bunny airliners. We did three in white with gold frits before starting on the spermoid molds. It always takes two or three of these sculptures to get back into the swing of things and we soon ran out of colored glass to use. But tomorrow will be a full day and I am looking forward to working with the new spermoid mold.
Standing for seven hours between hot and cold and doing physical work is very tiring. I left a wake-up call for 6:00 P.M. feeling that 3 hours of sleep would be enough. They forgot the wake-up call and I did not get up until almost 8:00 P.M. Because the Sichuan restaurant I like is very close to the hotel and the restaurants close much earlier in Boshan than Beijing, I quickly got dressed, hoping they would still be able to make me dinner. They were closing but were willing to cook something simple, which was perfect. I had a delicious soup with duckballs and vegetables and they gave me another dish of pickled cauliflower as a gift. Walking home it felt like it was way below freezing and my hotel room was decidedly colder tonight than last night.
I was able to talk to Leslie and Dan in the office and do some work updating the diary before studying some Chinese to try to get sleepy. Coming back from Indonesia and then turning around less than one week later to come to Beijing has been a difficult sleep adjustment period. Hopefully, my body will begin to adjust shortly.
Negotiations with Li Gang's new gallery in 798 were disappointing. Although I have shown with his predecessor galleries a number of times in the last ten years, because of changing business conditions, Gang has a new model. He basically charges the artists for a fee to cover the costs of printing posters, creating an opening party and to help cover some of the rent. Since the new gallery is tiny, the plan is to have the art exhibited in the small space and then everyone congregates outside for a barbecue and beer. This may work when the weather is nice, but who wants to come to a party that is outside at night when the temperature is well below freezing and there is a biting wind. So my inclination is to pass, especially since I really do not have time to properly plan out an exhibition for space that is the small. He wants the opening to be on Saturday and I return late Friday night. In the interim, I need to build new hanging units and try to plan out what sculptures go in that space while away from my studio. I feel it just won't work at this time and we will work out doing something with him when the weather is warmer. Also, Li Gang has his hands full. His younger daughter was still recovering from the rat bite from Wendy's pet rat. So this is just bad karma at this time for everyone.
The pollution this morning was still bad and again it was extremely cold. Because Mr. Xie's car was already overcrowded with his normal passengers, he sent one of his employees with the company van to pick me up. We stopped for our pickup breakfast of fried dough sticks and a Chinese version of a McDonald's breakfast sandwich, which is an enclosed pita like dough stuffed with cooked sausage and onions, and a hard boiled egg. Outside of the place that prepares this were street vendors were still offering other breakfast dishes. Everything is frozen solid outside. The street vendors have got to be chilled to the bone.
The crew likes to start with the Tuzi Feija 808 series since it takes three workers devoting full attention to this project and it uses lots of glass. We did a series of three in dark green with gold frits. That took us through most of the morning. For some reason, the first one had a defect in the glass so we decided to start from scratch and this delayed us a little bit. When we finished that, it was time to start using the new mold for the glass spermoids that I had brought with me from the U.S. The result is a very large serpentine figure with more undulations and changes in height. I also redesigned the space for the holding plugs so that there would be more options in hanging this series. This is especially important when you are doing installations because you want the maximum flexibility.
It is extremely warm when you are right next to the major glass kiln or the glory hole. Otherwise, it is bitter cold. You cannot work in a heavy parka or, for that matter, any type of loose outer garment that may be highly flammable. So you work very cold approximately 90% of the time and extremely hot 10% of the time. When the foundry is fully operational, there is a full complement of glass blowers all the time by either of the heat sources. It is a perverse yin and yang. Unlike the modernized Aimei foundry, which was forced to use natural glass instead of coal, at Baishang all of the glass kilns are operational. This means that except for isolated shortages, you are fully operational from 7:00 A.M. until 2:30 P.M., which is the normal closing time.
Since there are no restaurants near the glass foundry and I do not have access to my own kitchen, Mrs. Xie prepares a simple vegetable lunch for me. Sometimes there is a small amount of meat or pork added for flavor. It is more than enough. I have to go up to the main building where the Xies' like to eat, almost always by myself because I don't want to interfere with her television watching and that is the best time for me to make phone calls. It also gives me a chance to meditate for about ten minutes in an area that is slightly warmer than the foundry and much warmer than outside. The workers all eat lunch in the foundry. Every day the owner supplies local bread to the staff.
The glassblower assistants, who are all women, are the ones who go to the headquarters building to get the local manbei rolls for themselves and the male glass blowers. In the studio, the assistant glass blowers do all of the initial glass gathering for the master blowers who stay at their stations waiting for the prepared puntes to start creating the various figures and forms. Having a female foundry supervisor under such circumstances is quite remarkable. Because I am still new at this foundry and it has a different social makeup than Aimei, I have avoided discussing this dichotomy with anyone. But it seems a special feature of this foundry.
After lunch, we continued to work using the new mold. The first sculptures were not a success because we needed to figure out the proper amount of glass to gather, what precise shape we needed to start with and the idiosyncrasies of each mold. However by the third sculpture, they were beginning to look quite good. I was then able to make sculptures using the new mold with the following base colors: light gray, a deep blue, a dark red and white. We also started to get into a good rhythm and as the day wore on I was happier with the results. Of course, you can't tell until the sculptures are delivered to my studio a month later.
When the foundry closes at 2:30 P.M., that is the sign for the beginning of an enthusiastic poker game amongst the senior glass flowers. The person designated to drive me back to the hotel is an active viewer/player so my return was delayed by 30 minutes. Each person is dealt three cards after they put in an ante of 1 RMB. You do not draw any cards or are any cards subsequently dealt to fill out your hand. The high hand wins and it is unclear to me whether there are any wildcards. Apparently the person next to the dealer opens and he either passes or bids. Then, if there is a bid, it follows the normal procedure that I am used to. You can either drop, put up the same amount of money to see or raise. If there is no bid, then the next person has the option of dropping or placing a bid. On almost all of the hands, the opener is not challenged. There may be a minimum to open but I do not know enough Chinese to ask the right type of question to find this out.
Back at the hotel, I reminded them of the missed wake-up call yesterday and they promised me that they would wake me up at the requested time. I was extremely filthy and a hot shower felt great. I was asleep within 60 seconds. The wake-up call was on time and worked. After making some calls to determine that the heating system at my Beijing studio was now operational and working and certain other details, it was time to go out for supper. My usual haunt was very crowded but there was a banquet room in back that was empty. But it was cold. The women who kept feeding me all sorts of goodies the other night made a big fuss so I decided to stay even though the air-conditioning that was supposed to warm up the room was not quite successful in taking out the chill. This was because there was a draft through the windows. But I ordered a delicious soup casserole with vegetables and meat balls made up of pork and chicken. This was supplemented by pickled cold cauliflower stems. It was a hearty and satisfying meal. I was able to focus on my Chinese studies as I have missed the last three classes between our dive trip to Indonesia, Jeff Blye's 60th birthday party and my trip to China.
I tried to stay up to speak with Leslie and the office but by 10:00 P.M., I had run out of steam. It was time to do some research on the Internet to figure out what color combinations would work with amber, a color I had never worked with before.
I was starting to get into a routine, meet someone from the foundry at 6:30 A.M., stop at the local version of a diner to pick up breakfast, eat breakfast by the glass kiln because it is the only warm place in the foundry and begin work by 7:30 A.M. We started with creating some more Tuzi Feiji 808s utilizing the amber as a base. But instead of gold Frits, I used dark blue Frits. With the red and blue Tuzi Feiji 808s, Bo had used a white base. I forgot to tell him not to use a white base with the amber. My instincts were correct as the first one utilizing a white base did not work out to my satisfaction. So we did three more without a white base and they should look terrific. Amber, unlike the dark red, green and blue, I have worked with on the previous two days is opaque. It is very attractive as an opaque color. The white base changes it to an entirely different color, which to me, is not as interesting. This took most of the morning because there was a defect in the first sculpture without the white base and we could not figure out what caused the problem. But the next three appeared to come out well. But, I will not know until I see them in my Beijing studio.
I liked the opaque look of the amber so well that I cast three more sculptures utilizing this color without any frits on the old crocodile fish mold. They look good but the mold was causing a problem because the clay had dried out too much and was no longer usable after three sculptures. So we switched to the new mold and that was also causing a problem. So I went back to the mold that I used the first time I was at Baishang for the rest of the day. By 1:00 P.M., there were only two base colors left: white and dark red.
They are extremely busy now and the foundry supervisor only makes available the color frits and the size frits that are needed for that day's production supplemented by what I request at the start of the day. However, as the day progressed, I sometimes have ideas of different color frits and frits size to work with. At my former foundry, I knew where all of these were stored and had access to them during the day. I do not yet have that freedom at this new foundry and because the foundry supervisor is so busy, she doesn't have time to look for the color I need at that time or give me access to the equipment so I can create my own frit sizes. The equipment is very simple and the process of creating different sizes is not rocket science. In 15 minutes, I can create four to five different sizes of the same color that can be used by the foundry for other projects as well. But in view of what happened with the boss' son at the other foundry and the fact that it was obviously doing very poorly and had all the signs of going out of business, this new foundry has been an excellent choice. Both foundries have some really fine master glass blowers who are a pleasure work with.
I had dinner with Sno Cao and his wife, and as always, he is interesting to talk to and has very strong views on both business and politics. Because he has to spend time with his father every day, I often take a taxi to a restaurant near where he lives so we can have dinner at a restaurant that is convenient to his father's home. The food was excellent but the restaurant was extremely cold. They obviously wanted to save on the heating bill so I ended up wearing my parka through most of the meal. In fact, this is how I eat most of my meals in China on this trip because my studio has been frigid and the foundry is extremely cold.
When I got back, I was able to get in touch with Leslie who was leaving for a family birthday party in Santo Domingo. I thought she left this morning but was one day off. It was good catching up on the news with her and time to call it a day. She told me about the flu epidemic in New York and hoped that I would avoid the flu by being continuously cold in China. I told her I had a flu shot and needed lots of prayers. I keep having visions of playing golf when the temperature is in the high 80s and feeling the sweat rolling down my arms. It feels good in my thoughts. We are used to keeping the temperature at between 68° and 70°. In China, they keep it at about 52°. It is quite a difference, especially after you have been living with it for over a week. Even inside, I have two or three layers of clothing. Time to get to sleep and prepare for my last day of glassblowing and casting in Boshan.
The last day at the foundry is always quite hectic. Generally, the crew becomes much more efficient because they want to complete as many pieces as possible before I leave. We have the same colors to work with today. Because it is better for the crew, we start working on the Tuzi Feiji 808 series first. We started with a deep red with gold frits, without using white as a color base. The red will be darker and not as bright but there will be more translucency to the sculpture. Unfortunately, as we were about to complete the first sculpture, the punti disintegrated and the sculpture did an unplanned crash landing. I hope it was not an ominous beginning. We were definitely in a good rhythm and after the first three flying bunnies in red and gold, we did three green ones with gold frits and without a white base for the same reason. I was not happy with the gold frits on the white bunny that we had done the last time as the gold seemed lost. So I switched to blue frits. This will be Air France Tuzi Feiji 808. Before lunch, we were also able to finish five of the Chinese Dragon series.
There were some strangers in the foundry photographing while we were creating two of the China dragon spermoid series. We did not speak and I had no idea who they were. I was told that they were from the government and I should not be worried. Just before lunch, Mr. Xie pulled me aside and said that he had an emergency with one of his sons so he would be back at 2:00 P.M. and then I have to leave at 2:30 P.M. to catch the train from Zibo to Nanjing. We agreed to settle up promptly at 2:00 P.M. so he could leave on time.
There was again a mountain of bread rolls for the staff and the line to get the rolls was again 100% female. It is quite a hierarchical set up in the foundry. Mrs. Xie made a nice simple lunch and we actually spoke for the first time, although quite briefly. It turns out that she is, in effect, the company controller and handles all of the collections and related financial matters. Unlike the son's yelling and screaming at settlement time at the prior foundry, while he was creating fictitious changes and arbitrarily increasing the base price, it was very businesslike and fair here. On the first day we settled on for the breakage and the differences on what the count was and I knew I was coming back in May or June. He asked me why I was going to Nanjing and I told him that I was meeting with an art gallery for a possible show in June.
After saying our goodbyes, it was time to return to the hotel where I worked out a deal that I would pay for half a day if I checked out by 4:30 P.M. After a long hot shower and spending at least 20 minutes trying to get my hands to look somewhat clean, it was time to go to Zibo and catch the train for Nanjing. Unfortunately, the taxi driver did not understand my instructions. This was surprising because everyone else understood when I said I have to be at the train station in Zibo. So I gave him directions and pretended that I was a choo-choo train. Once we passed the turn for the Boshan railroad station and I told him that there would be approximately 83 RMB, he finally said he understood and we started to have a conversation. I think he was just reluctant to pick up a foreigner for a fare.
We arrived at the station in plenty of time and the meter charge was exactly 83 RMB. He had a hearty laugh and wished me a safe journey. The train ride from Zibo to Nanjing is approximately 3 ½ hours. The train comes from Tsingtao and goes north initially to Jinan before going south to Nanjing. I sat next to a businessman from Beijing who was going to five separate cities, one day at a time to purchase chemicals. He was a nice guy and he was intrigued by my Chinese to English and English to Chinese computer program. He wanted for all of the information because he said it would be very helpful to him to improve his English. I didn't have time for supper and was wary about eating any food in the Zibo railroad station or on the train.
The high-speed trains have a special station in Nanjing, which is far from the center of town. I was able to have a nice conversation with the cab driver as I believe that I am becoming more comfortable in talking Mandarin even though the accents in different parts of China are quite different. I was met at the hotel by Lu Coral at about 10:30 p.m. and one of her friends. We planned out the next day- at least the morning before I went up to my room. They gave me a free upgrade and I had a corner suite, which was quite nice. It had tangerines for me to snack on. But I was still hungry so I ordered room service. My general rule is never order anything hot from room service because by the time it gets to you it is cold and tasteless. The cobb salad was elegantly presented as if I were in a spa, including spa size portions, but I was grateful for some food so I could review some paperwork from the United States and to begin planning my presentation to Nanjing Jiemo Gallery. It was also quite tasty. I eventually got to sleep by 1:00 A.M. and I had to get up very early for a meeting with the gallery people.
I got up well before the wake up call because there were millions of ideas and thoughts on my mind and I wanted to outline my presentation before the meeting. I needed every minute. I had pre-ordered the hotel breakfast. The Nanjing Intercontinental Hotel and just been completed and it is supposedly the fourth highest building in the world. The only problem I had was that the elevator system is a nightmare. I basically couldn't get out of my floor and I couldn't find any instructions on how to use the special card. I followed the same procedure that I used the prior night and it did not work. The hotel staff told me that to go to floor 45 which is the entry for all of the hotel rooms above a certain level you have to follow a different procedure.
The breakfast was a huge buffet of every type of food. To prevent myself from overeating, I started with a glass of juice and a cup of tea to outline my presentation ideas and to draw sketches to illustrate some of the ideas. My curator had told me that Nanjing is considered the artistic center in China for calligraphy and ink painting. Also, very few non-Chinese artists I have shown in Nanjing although it is considered a major city that is quite cultured. I decided that I would suggest that the name of the show be "West Meets East- East Meets West". I also wanted to describe each artwork in four different ways; Chinese characters, Chinese pinyin, English and my use of a calligraphy design that looks like Chinese writing but spells out the title in English.
I also went over the images that I sent them to figure out what type of works would be consistent with that theme.
Getting back to the room was another bad experience. I tried both procedures and neither worked. So I went back to the concierge on the 45th floor who explained to me that they put in this unique security system because they wanted-heightened security. And, I was not the only one who was having difficulty figuring out how to use it.
After packing, I was able to get on the elevator to go down to the 45th floor. Unfortunately, it did not open and my cell phone did not work in the elevator. All I can hope for was that someone would come by and need the elevator to go to a higher floor. After about a five minute wait, which seemed like eternity, the door opened so someone could get on. I then went to another bank of elevators to go down to the ground floor. That is an express elevator that only stops at the banquet rooms and the 45th floor, as well as, the lobby. The elevator stopped at the 8th floor even though I pressed the lobby button. No one got on. Then the elevator decided to go up to the 45th floor rather than down to the lobby. So I again had to approach someone on 45th floor to ask her what was going on. I was afraid I was going to be late to my meeting with the director of the gallery. He got on the elevator, took out a key and manipulated the key and now said it would work and he was sorry for the inconvenience. This time it made it to the lobby.
When I checked out, I noticed that there was an additional charge for the upgraded room. After speaking with the manager and showing them the note that I had been given the night before, they graciously reversed the charges and apologized. Lu Coral, who is going to act as my curator for the show, had given me the name of the gallery and its phone number but no address. Persuading a driver to let me in and then have him call that number was not an easy task. It turns out that the gallery is just off the same main street as the Intercontinental Hotel. Lu Coral met me the street and then we walked up a perpendicular street to the gallery complex.
On the way to the Nanjing Jiemo Gallery, we met the gallery manager Gisele and a technical person, Wang Ku, so they could show me the gallery and go over any technical problems I could perceive. They were not used to sculpture so they had a number of questions about weight and we had a discussion of whether their suspension system could sustain the weight of some of my larger installations. It looks like the system can support the weight and in any event the facing walls are made of wood, which is about ½ inch thick, to be used as an alternative. The 14 foot wide steel sculpture, ":Journey," can be hung up on the second level wall by the entrance. They really liked that sculpture from the image on my website and understood the message that China and the United States would have to take steps to start to communicate better.
We then met the gallery director, Xing Ying. Lu Coral did most of the talking and then the gallery director asked me for my thoughts. She liked the suggested title and the approach integrating calligraphy/Chinese characters, pinyin and English to describe the works. The space is quite large being 125 m long and 40 m wide. The current show was for 10 artists, all working in some form of calligraphy or ink painting. So we talked about inviting a Nanjing artist to share the space. Everyone agreed that this was a good idea. We then went over the economic terms and the gallery is to send me a contract. The opening was to be on Saturday, June 22, which is a very good time of the year to sell art in China. People do not come out in the winter easily to see art, Xing Ying had another appointment that she had to go to and the rest of us went back to the gallery to do some detailed measurements.
It was already past noon and Lu wanted me to meet a friend at lunch. Based on our conversation the prior night, I thought it was the same friend because that's what I was told last night. In fact, it was someone else, a guy she and her friends had traveled with in Tibet previously. We had a nice hot pot lunch done in a cafeteria. I went for the spicy version and Lu Coral ordered the mild version. She didn't like the color of the mild cooking liquid so she got some spices that would give it a proper color. Although he supposedly does not have a girlfriend, Lu Coral disagreed with him since her friend is dating him. Luke wants to take a road tour of the United States for his honeymoon. Luke loves to travel and he has never been to the United States. He had lots of questions.
After lunch, we went to visit Shen Sunny's gallery on the third floor of a shopping mall. It is at the end of hallway where the mall owner had made a little booth for his wife, who manages the gallery. The VVV Gallery only shows two artists, Jingdong and his brother Sunny. Sunny spent a number of years in Beijing trying to make it as an artist but could not make enough money to support his family in Nanjing so he has returned to Nanjing where he has this gallery and is the general manager of the Central Gallery, which we are going to next. He also has a full-time job with a cultural promotion company. It will be good to see him again.
The Central Gallery is where Lu Coral had previously currated a show in coordination with the French Embassy. This show was for a well-known woodcut artist Shan Chunjie. He is also a philosopher and I purchased one of his illustrated essay books, because I liked a few of his ideas, especially an essay on the feelings of a tree. Sunny has been the general manager of this gallery for three months and it was good to see him again at the opening and spending some time with him and catching up on what is happening to his wife and child since he returned to Nanjing. He is now scrambling to pay his living expenses and his daughter's college education. I know his older brother feels badly about the younger brother's career. He tries to support him in any way possible.
We also discussed the differences in gallery operations between the United States and China. In the former, shows are usually one month or longer. In contrast, in China shows are as short as a week and the norm is now ten days. Generally, no refreshments are now served at the opening and there are always a number of speeches. Shan Chunjie's philosophy is more interesting than many of his woodcuts. However, his black-and-white woodcuts of people are quite striking. His other woodcuts are predominantly multicolored animals in a forest done on small individual woodcuts that are then assembled for the final piece.
We then visited Sunny's office at the cultural promotional company where he is some type of junior executive. It was nice to spend some time alone and to get more details on what he did and is now doing, with the inability to find the time or desire to create any original art. Even copying something as a jump start technique did not work.
Finally Lu Coral said we had to leave to go to the Senchuan Museum of Modern Art. The traffic in downtown Nanjing during the evening rush hour was even more horrific than Beijing at its worst. It took over an hour and a half to go four blocks. This was gridlock at its absolute worst! As a result, what was scheduled to be a relaxed visit with the director of the museum, including a walk-through with her and discussion of the possibility of some of my work being exhibited at the museum after the Nanjing show, ended up to be a very rushed 10 minute meeting because we had to catch the last plane out of Nanjing. We had previously met at Art Miami when she and her assistant joined Lu Coral and Shen Jingdong and I for dinner during that weekend. She was familiar with my work. It is a very impressive museum with a very good vibe.
We arrived at the airport just in time and rushed to get to the gate. When we were scheduled to board the plane there was no announcement so someone went back to the ticketing area to find out what was going on. They apparently switched gates but forgot to tell us. So we all trudged over to the new gate only to be told that our airplane had not yet arrived. We were then told that it had arrived so please get in line. We were in line for over 30 minutes and finally boarded the flight, which was totally full. The seats on a Chinese domestic airliner are much smaller than what I am used to on an American airliner. Because of what went on at the airport, there was no time for dinner. Lu Coral must have anticipated this because she bought a snack as we were rushing to the gate. They did serve something on the plane. It wasn't great but when you're that hungry you eat it anyway. I wanted to go to sleep, but was too tired. I tried to study Chinese as a way of putting me to sleep, but I was having trouble concentrating.
We finally arrived at the domestic terminal just before midnight. It was very cold. Unfortunately, there were not enough cabs so we had a wait in line for almost an hour. There were Gypsy cabdrivers hawking but I noticed that no one was using them. Shen was originally going to pick us up at the airport but he had a change of plans. So Lu Coral and I shared a taxi as her apartment in Wanjin is near my studio. It was after 1:00 AM when I finally arrived at my studio and was glad to finally be able to go to sleep in a warm place.
It was cold, overcast and windy. I did not want to get out of bed and finally got up at 10:00 AM to start working on the inserts for the recently delivered glass sculptures. I was concerned that because of the cold, the epoxy would not hold properly. So I made sure that the studio was at least 60° before I started this project. Previously, Jingdong and Coral had invited me for dinner that night so I had no time to waste because there was a lot to do for the Nanjing exhibition.
I met with Zhao Feng to explore the idea of using the bronze waste at his foundry as part of the Fish Over Reef installations. We also went over the plans to make the steel backings for the Fish Over Reef installations. Using the computer I was able to show him the diamond pattern steel I wanted to use. He said he understood and invited me to go with him in his car. I thought he was going to take me to his fabrication studio which was right around the corner. But we went to an area near where I buy my tools locally and we were able to locate diamond pattern steel sheets. That was a good sign but I was worried about the quality. He said he knew where he could get very good quality diamond pattern steel sheets but I would have to pay more. I said that was fine. I asked him when he could start working on making the backings according to the drawings. His response was that I would have to come out in person to supervise the fabrication. He said that that was the only way he would be comfortable that it would come out properly. He had to go to downtown Beijing and drop me off at home and we set up a date where I could work at his facility. On the way home I asked to see his foundry. He told me that the foundry had moved because there were going to build large apartment buildings on where it used to be located.
He was able to change his appointment and we then went out to the new fabrication facility to go over my plan for the use of the bronze scraps as part of the base to this installation series. We also wanted to go over if he had the other components necessary to complete this part of the installation. When we got there they were in the middle of a bronze pour, so I had to wait. For whatever reason a bronze pour brings everyone out from all parts of the facility to watch it happen. Then the workers return to what they were doing and only those workers who are needed for the pouring remain behind. I was then able to look at 2 buckets of leftover bronze. The leftover occurs when there is spillage when the hot bronze is poured into the cast. It creates a number of weird shapes. Sometimes it is pure bronze. Sometimes it is mixed with sand and other impurities to form slag. But it is exactly what I had in mind. All of the other components were there or could be fabricated from materials that were on hand. I felt very good that this idea that I had would actually work.
His daughter, who was now two, somehow remembered me and came running to greet me as "waigouren," which means foreigner. She has grown up so much and can clearly express herself. I also had a chance to visit with his wife and she was in good spirits. She complained that the new foundry was too remote from things to do and she had to have her own car. But she understood that Feng had no choice but to move and this new and much larger facility would enable him to expand his operations. Feng then drove me back to my studio. On the way back I asked him to stop at Jenny Lu's to stock up on vegetables, more wine and staples because there was an upcoming storm. The roads were so icy in front of my studio that I was afraid to take out the electric bike because there was no traction. Once you get to the main roads there is no ice, but to get there is too dangerous.
After catching up on my emails and an inquiry from a Chinese Internet newsletter for a story about my work, it was time to get ready for dinner. We switched our dinner plans from tonight to tomorrow night because Shen was getting over a cold. They were also out at his studio which is over an hour away. Tomorrow we would meet in Wanjin, which is less than 10 minutes from my studio, for dinner. After a simple dinner of vegetables with a little tomato sauce and a few glasses of wine, I was able to start working on planning out the Nanjing Jiemo Gallery exhibition. After speaking with Leslie, the office and Eric's family, it was time to get a good night's sleep.
Oxy showed up at 8:30 a.m. in the midst of a snowstorm. It was -8°C and very windy outside. I wasn't going anywhere fast today. We started working on retooling one of the wood backings that I originally had fabricated at Pratt to hang a Bunny Airliner 808 (Tuzi Feiji 808) on the wall. This would be one of the three ways that this sculpture series would be shown at the upcoming exhibition in Nanjing. Because of the unusual balance of the initial group of Tuzi Feiji 808s, the only way that each could be hung on a wall was if it were a dive bomber. So we decided to hang it near other sculptures in such a way that it would be diving in the direction that would not harm those sculptures. Hopefully we could still photograph it for the catalog to be used in the upcoming show.
It was already lunchtime and Oxy had to work somewhere else that afternoon. So he was able to drop me off in 798 so I could purchase some blue acrylic for the planned installation of 3 Bunny Airliner 808's in flight formation. We had previously purchased the hard wood for this installation and while I was in Shandong province and Nanjing Oxy had shaped the wood into two freestanding circles that were each approximately 3 ½ feet in diameter.
I needed cash for next day's work at the metal fabricator. At the bank that I normally go to just outside 798 there is normally no or little wait. Today was more crowded than normal and I was told that I would have a 5-20 minute wait. There was only one window available for non-VIP customers. Sitting next to me was a man, who looked about 40, with a suitcase with two young men standing behind him. His number was lower than mine. When he got to the window, he opened his suitcase and it was full of 100 RMB notes all bundled in uniform packages. Then two more assistants came into the bank with 4 more suitcases, also loaded with 100 RMB notes. About 30 minutes later the original two assistants returned with two more suitcases filled with bundles of 100 RMB notes. I have never seen so much "cash". The process continued on for over an hour and a half. Everyone in line behind him because we had higher numbers just had to wait their turn and he was oblivious to everyone else and didn't even apologize. I was supposed to meet Helen Lan and her husband back at the studio at 2:00 p.m. I was able to call her to come two hours later because I had no idea when I would be able to finally get in line to convert my dollars to RMB.
Shortly after returning to the studio, Helen Lan showed up without her husband. We used to speak in English. She had not used her English recently and she did not feel comfortable talking in English so we talked in Chinese. She described her husband as "laogong", which according to my understanding is translated as a "eunich." This term is used in Shandong province and other parts of China as a derogatory way of referring to your spouse. So I asked her why she didn't use a different term, such as "zhang fu," which was not so derogatory. She said that in Beijing "laogong" is an acceptable way to describe your husband or wife, although she knows that outside Beijing this is not acceptable. My Chinese has improved and we had a nice visit. She still has not found a job that is satisfying but her husband's business is doing well and she is enjoying married life. She has learned how to drive and now has her own large SUV.
Then Lu Coral and Shen Jingdong came over before dinner to discuss what to show at Beijing Art Fair 2013 and my ideas and questions as to Ink Gallery aka Nanjing Jiemo Ink Gallery show. Helen did not want to leave but LuCoral explained to her that we had business to discuss and we were going to visit Luo Jie, an artist that she also represents. So she drove away.
Lau Jie's studio is also in 318. His work is quite interesting. He uses rope as a symbol of life and then he paints the rope images around various figures in agony. His painting technique is amazing. Although his painted people are in some state of agony, he seems like a very happy person. We then had a formal tea service and after tea he played the classical Chinese piano. It is an instrument that I am unfamiliar with, and after listening to it for about 15 minutes would like to hear more music created by this instrument. He is apparently a bachelor who Jingdong and Coral have known for many years. He seems to like living life in this manner as he has the freedom to do what he wants when he wants and needs less money to live on. But he obviously loved having people over to his studio and to entertain them with his Chinese piano and gracious tea service. Upon reflection, this seems a rather lonely way to live as there was no one you could share your thoughts, feelings, triumphs and defeats.
Then the three of us went off to a Korean dumpling house in Wanjin after I brought an electric blanket. I wished I had an electric blanket when I had arrived in Beijing as it would've made those first few nights tolerable. We ended up at a Korean noodle house restaurant. It operates like a fast food chain with service, but the food was very good. There were many stores in that mall in Wanjin catering to Koreans. Lu Coral explained to me that when they finished building the Wanjin district as a mini-city within the city of Beijing, the Korean community moved in in very large numbers. They were immediately followed by merchants with goods and services that catered to their needs. This was an example of pure capitalism working efficiently and effectively.
They were going to a movie after dinner and invited me to join but I passed, as I was too tired and had too much to do at studio. I had a number of housekeeping chores followed by laundry, dishes, and starting to work on the diary. I was also getting behind on everything. The Chinese Dairy is a project that you should do each day when all your thoughts and events are fresh in your mind. But, I also had much work to do to prepare for the upcoming Nanjing Jiemo Gallery show in June, especially since there was a very good possibility that I would be unable to return to Beijing until just before the show in June. I had to insert epoxy for the metal inserts in all of the new glass sculptures. This epoxy takes much more time to harden in cold weather. So I wanted to make sure that the first application was done tonight so that we would have plenty of time to do the second, and, if required, a third, epoxy application. I was able to finish approximately half of the units before going to bed. I took a break to speak to Leslie and then my son Eric on Skype. I was anxious to return home but at the same time I knew that I had to really focus on getting ready for the exhibition and most of that can only be done in Beijing. The only two exceptions were my promise to create Chinese-English descriptions using calligraphy for my works and to make new hanging units for the reconfigured Tuzi Feiji 808s.
Zhao Feng picked me up at 8:30 a.m. to take me to his relocated metal fabrication facility and bronze foundary. It was dominated by sculptures of various sizes of a mechanized version of a rhinoceros in various sizes from humongous to tiny, in different metals; cast bronze, cast stainless steel and what looked like a bronze casting with a stainless steel facing.
Initially, we were to shape the diamond pattern steel backings. The fabricator does not have a forge because there is no gas line. Instead they use a traditional welding torch. Mr. Zhao would hold the torch and then one of his workers would do the pounding. I would circle the areas with chalk I wanted to be worked on. Feng did not use enough heat and the worker kept hammering away on cold metal with little effect. Eventually I was able to persuade him to let me work with his helpers and I started to use more heat and the worker was able to be more effective using less effort. He was very happy because the work went quicker and he wasn't killing his arm. Another worker agreed to help so we could work on 2 pieces at once. We were able to finish 4 pieces before lunch.
Feng took me to lunch as his guest to a local restaurant. It was quite crowded. Despite the bitter cold the restaurant was very warm. He gave the order. There was a pitcher of lukewarm white liquid at each table that everyone was drinking. It is some type of soy bean juice and almost everyone used a sweetener with it. So I followed what everyone else was doing. The soy bean juice tastes a lot better with the sweetener, although it has to be less healthy this way. He ordered a type of tofu that I have never seen. It comes in a large bowl and looks like a whitish yellow soup that has solidified into a Jello-like consistency. It is accompanied by various seasonings which you use as an additive while you eat the hot tofu. Some of these additives are extremely hot. But, without an additive, this tofu had no flavor. We had some other dishes too, including vegetables and a beef fish. I looked at the menu and apparently this restaurant specializes in donkey meat and various other animal meat which I am not familiar with.
We discussed how I intended to use the leftover bronze from other castings as part of my works. After lunch he assigned a total of three workers to help. He had an errand to run and asked if I could continue to take over the torch work. He had other things to do and saw that I knew what I was doing with a welding torch. We finished shaping nine of the steel and bronze reef components of the Fish Over Reef series for the upcoming show. The next step was to form the metal holding rods at various lengths, which would hold the glass sculptures. Because they only had coiled rods, a worker had to straighten the coil first before forming the holding units for the bronze portion of the coral reef section. We then discussed the best way to weld the holding units into the steel base and decided to drill a hole in the base so that the holding unit could initially be welded from underneath and then welded from the top. I then arranged a holding unit at various angles for this step. We did this for all nine installation bases but could only finish five before quitting time at 5:30 P.M. The only way to get to the new facility is to have your own car, which I do not have, so Zhao Feng drove me back to my studio.
I had planned on returning to the studio by 4:00 p.m. to work with Oxy. During the day, Oxy was working for someone else, I was going to be late and was concerned. But I had forgotten my cell phone at the studio, and all my cell phone contact numbers are only in that cell phone. It turned out that I was worried over nothing because he was running very late.
He showed up at around 7:00 P.M. and announced that he was hungry. I was too lazy to cook so we went to a local restaurant in Sou Jia Cun, where I could also pick up some supplies while we were waiting for the dinner we had ordered. We talked about his son and the differing attitudes on raising children. In China, striking a child is acceptable "whipping him in shape". Oxy could not understand why I did not routinely strike my children as a way of disciplining them. He was also frustrated by the different educational criteria and systems between rural China, where his wife and son are, and the big metropolitan areas such as Beijing and Shanghai. It even carries through to the teachers. His wife is certified to teach in the rural schools but she is not certified to teach in the schools in the large metropolitan areas. Thus, she must stay in the rural area because there is no work for her in Beijing.
I was cold the entire day. My studio, by comparison, was warm. But even at around 55°F, it was still cold. Oxy soon came to the studio and we tried to hang one of the other Tuzu Feiji 808s. Because too much weight was upfront, the only way to hang this one was facedown. Even when we tried to change it to a slight angle when it was face down the sculpture became unstable. The new hanging unit was the old hanging unit glued to another piece of wood cut to conform carrying on the original angle image.
When we make more units either here or in Brooklyn, I would use a steeper angle, especially since we would use a much thicker piece of wood for this hanging unit. We are supposed to receive the delivery of the new Tuzi Feiji 808 series on Thursday.
We then went over the design for the holding unit for the Tuzu Feiji 808 installations of three airplanes in flight formation. The base is a circle that is almost 4 feet in diameter and that base will hold three Tuzu Feiji 808s. The base is wood and the bracket to hang it on the wall is going to be in two pieces of wood: one to be mounted on the sculpture installation, and the second to be mounted on the wall. The idea is that you just lower the sculpture base onto the wall mounting so it can sit securely no matter what the angle. The wood base weighs approximately 25 pounds, the three holding units for the glass sculptures weigh about 5 pounds in the aggregate and each of the Tuzu Feiji 808s weighs about 12 to 15 pounds. You can understand why we're so concerned with the proper hanging mechanism.
After dinner I did some more work on a wire mesh background and spent time on the computer coordinating with Lu Coral, who is acting as the curator, on what to do for the upcoming exhibition at the Nanjing Jiemo Ink Gallery. My goal was to stay up to speak to Leslie and other people in the United States on Skype. I was able to do that, but just barely. There is just so much work to do in the next few days to organize for the show in June since it is extremely unlikely that I will be able to return to China during the interim period. I almost fell asleep at the computer as it was nice and warm in the studio. After being outdoors for almost the entire day, the contrasting warmth of the heated studio was at first a pleasure and then an enemy as it was putting me to sleep.
I then started to work on cleaning up the glass sculptures and inserting the metal hanging units on their undersides as I was running out of time. I was able to put in another couple of hours, but by midnight I was ready to go to sleep.
The afternoon went very fast. I was able to take a break to start foraging for bronze scrap and leftover bronze pourings. When I got home at around 6:00 PM I was very tired and cold.
A simple dinner of vegetables, mixed with pasta and some red wine put me in a good mood to do some more epoxy work on the glass before going to sleep before 9:00 PM. The combination of heat in my studio and the electric blanket made for a good night's sleep.
Zhao Feng was on time. Unfortunately, on the way to his fabrication facility we ended up in a major traffic jam. Nothing moved for an hour and a half. When everyone knew that nothing was going to move, they got out of their cars and started to talk. It was cold and I used this as an excuse to take a nap since I was very tired from lack of sleep. After the initial anger of the drivers, everyone calms down as they are resigned to the fact. There is no explanation given for what caused the delay or for how long the delay was expected. It turns out that we were very near a toll station and something was occurring at the toll station that required no cars could go through it until the situation was resolved. When I asked Feng to find out why there was a delay, his response was that it would do no good because he could not get an answer and it was already in the past. We finally got to the studio at about 10:30 A.M. having blown almost 2 hours sitting still in the middle of nowhere.
While I was gone to gather and then select more bronze spatter and slag, one of the workers took the initiative of welding the curved steel posts used to put the glass sculptures onto the steel and bronze base units. Unfortunately, they were all welded in the wrong position because they did not understand that the top of the hanging unit was identifiable by the two holes. Also, they were all welded in the same direction. So I thought we had to start over from the beginning. But, the worker showed me away of using a set of pliers to twist the already welded steel hooks to the correct position. Both he and Feng assured me that the welds were still extremely strong and would hold the glass sculptures with no problems.
Feng took me to lunch at the same local restaurant. Again it was extremely crowded. In reading the menu I noticed that there were many dishes featuring donkey meat. I was told that donkey meat was a specialty of this particular restaurant and people came from far and wide to have one of their donkey meat dishes. Feng is essentially a vegetarian so we again had lots of tofu and vegetable dishes rather than any donkey meat dishes. We also had some more of the lukewarm soymilk drink rather than tea or hot water to accompany lunch. Feng explained to me that he knew that I had to come out there personally to supervise the work. Otherwise, it would not be done correctly. I grudgingly admitted that he was right but was concerned that we would be running out of time to do what had to be done for the upcoming show in Nanjing.
After lunch, he had errands to run and I was again on my own to coordinate the welding of the bronze spatter and other overflow pieces to the base. We basically designed a system of different sized small metal posts to use as the connection between the bronze pieces and the steel base. They used some form of TIG welding without any eye protection. In contrast, when we use TIG welding at the Pratt studio you need to use a helmet with at least a 12 rating in contrast to a 10 rating for MIG or stick welding. But I decided not to question it assuming that they knew what they were doing and understood the health risks. There are always decisions to be made about what bronze piece goes where and which bronze pieces to use in what arrangements on each steel base.
We were all done with everything by about 3:30 P.M. but Zhao Feng was still out on his errands with his wife and two-year-old daughter. Rather than standing in the cold with nothing to do, I went into his office, which was nice and warm. I tried to go to sleep but was not successful. We were able to put all of the units we fabricated into the back of his van to deliver them with me to the studio. I had to make sure that the fabricators used wire brushes to finish the steel and bronze so that I could immediately polyurethane these units before leaving China. We were back at my studio by 5:30 PM.
I was beginning to get very nervous about getting enough done before I left. There was lots of planning as well as actual production work that needed to be done in the next two and a half days and I didn't know if I would have enough time. I had no time to spend 2 hours away from the studio to have a leisurely dinner. Fortunately I had enough left over from storing up for the previous upcoming storm to make a simple but filling dinner of pasta with different vegetables and some red wine. I was able to put on a second coat of epoxy for the hanging units needed to support the glass sculptures for those that already had their first coat. For those who didn't have the first coat I was able to do those too. I took a break to speak to Leslie on Skype talk to the grandchildren in Seattle.
Oxy came over early and we were able to plan out what needed to be done while I was away. This in turn required me to make decisions as to what I was going to exhibit in Nanjing. I am planning some of this out with Lu Coral who is now going to act as the curator for the show. What I need to confirm with her is that we were going to share the space with another artist or would I have to use only my works for an area that is larger than a football field. Eventually, it was projected that I would have approximately 15 of a combination of the Fish Over Reef series and The Creation series, one large metal flag sculpture entitled "Journey," which would go on the second floor of the exhibition space just after the entrance, approximately 20 of the Shattered Dream/ Erupting Energy series, approximately 7 to 10 woodcuts that still needed to be framed for the show, two large TuziFeiji 808 installations utilizing a total of 6 glass pieces on the large circular bases, approximately 10- 14 Tuzi Feiji 808s to be hung individually on the wall and 5 to 7 freestanding Tuzi Feiji 808s, assuming we could find an appropriate bench or table to show those units at show. This assumes that I will have to share this huge gallery with another artist. So we had to make sure that some of these were completed and installed on the wall at the studio so we could photograph them for the catalog needed for the exhibition.
We also had to draw out various things that needed to be constructed while I was back in the United States such as the hanging units for the two large Tuzi Feiji 808 installations. We also went over what needed to be done to complete the large circles so that there would be a minimum of work for me to do on my return. I was to build new individual hanging units at Pratt to bring over with me in June. We were able to get everything done by 8:00 p.m., including that hanging of the 2 new Fish Over Reef Series in the back room for photographing for the catalog. I was too tired to have dinner.
Day 13 and Day 14
The other installation bases received a second coating of polyurethane. They were on the floor ready to go for the show. The remainder of the day was devoted to the preparation and planning for the upcoming exhibitions. It remains a total blur. I obviously did not prepare my diary entries in a timely manner for that day. I didn't even take notes of what happened for the rest of that day or the next day. It still remains a blur.
Normally the last day is hectic beyond belief. But, today was relatively calm. The cleaning girl was supposed to come to clean up the studio. All we have to do was pack one Bunny Airliner 808 to bring back the United States as we needed all of the other sculptures in Beijing to be in a position to select what we want for the upcoming show in Nanjing. Then I changed my mind and decided to pack one box of 5 spermoids for upcoming exhibitions in the United States, including the Fountain Show at the 25th Street – Park Avenue Armory in New York City. I can no longer rely on Huang to get me to the airport because he is so undependable even though his station wagon can hold 3 packing boxes. I was able to make arrangements with the driver Wang, who had been introduced to me by Lu Coral to get me to the airport. His car is small so I was limited to what I can take with me to the airport. He was right on time and I was at the airport three hours before departure time.
That was the easiest part of our trip. The plane was extremely full. Just prior to take off it was discovered that the plane had a flat tire. Everyone had to be offloaded and we were told that there would be a 1 to 2 hour delay and that United had made arrangements for us to have dinner at the airport. So off we went to dinner. Unfortunately the place they sent us was unable to handle the number of people that had been offloaded from the plane. We were told where to go but the staff did not have enough vouchers. Almost an hour passed and there was still no food. Nor was there any communication from United about the status of the flight. I decided to go back to the gate explaining to the other people that I wasn't 100% confident that United would call us when the plane was ready to depart.
When I got back to the gate, I was told to hurry on to the plane because it was leaving shortly. I told the gate personnel that they had to contact the restaurant because there were 50 to 100 people waiting for dinner and they would miss the flight if no one told them to come back to the gate. I explained to her that no one had called the restaurant to tell the passengers that the plane was leaving shortly. She didn't know what to do so I said that maybe she should call to make sure that the restaurant was able to tell the people that it was time to promptly report the gate. She finally understood and made a call. She also instructed the restaurant what to say. They held the plane for another 10 minutes and all of the people that I had "befriended" during the allegedly free dinner-to-be were told by the lady at the gate that I had insisted that she call the restaurant they were very grateful. The flight was 4 hours late in arriving.
Normally we come into Terminal C at Newark. But, the immigration facility did not look familiar. So I asked someone what terminal we were in and was told it was Terminal. B. Although it is illegal to use the cell phone while you are at the immigration facility at Newark, I was able to get a hold of Leslie and tell her to come to Terminal B because that was where my baggage was and that Terminal C was closed. She was concerned because when she went to Terminal C to meet me it was closed and there was no one there to tell her what to do. Fortunately, I wasn't caught talking to her on the cell phone and we were able to coordinate. It was cold and snowing in Newark. This looked and felt familiar. We were told that there were only a few planes that were permitted to land that evening. Of course it was almost midnight so there were probably very few flights landing in Newark.
It was good to be finally home and hopefully we got enough done in China so I won't have to go back prior to June for this reason. But there is still much to do here in the U.S. because I promised to do calligraphy to describe each installation in both Chinese, English, pinyin and my version of English done in the Chinese calligraphy style of organization based on the calligraphy work that I originally did in China 10 years ago as part of my Chinese American Flag Series.