Since I started working on my Glass Journey series, I record my experiences around the world through my glass sculptures. Each piece symbolizes a glimpse into the journey’s spirit; a page in my glass diary. Yet, there are always some places that inspire me to write more pages in my diary.
No matter that Provence was such a popular subject for many artists throughout history. I was completely fascinated by it when I first visited there in 2012. I say it’s charming, not just because of the visual beauty, but more about the spirit and atmosphere. So far, I have created four pieces based on the south of France. Even now, after 5 years, the landscape, the air of Provence still remain in my heart, fresh, and inspiring to me.
Quartet Of Provence is a work inspired by the cypress trees found in Provence. The trees are one of Provence's enduring symbols. Many painters, Van Gogh, Cezanne among them, immortalized the cypress's highly decorative, tall and slender shapes. Cypress trees, planted by the entrance of a house or villa, carries the landlord’s message to the traveler of beauty and tradition. Also, to the knowledgeable pilgrim, the number of trees indicate the level of accommodation: 1 to 3 trees, a drink up to a full accommodation. I made 4 cypress trees in my sculpture Quartet Of Provence, that’s my top level of welcome to the viewer, based on Provence tradition. Later, I developed the sculpture to a wearable version called, Cypress Trees of Provence. Here are some of my thoughts for my works:
Cypress trees in Provence
Perfectly tall, slender and straight
Pointing up to the sky
Crazy as the brushworks of Van Gogh
Saturated as the colors of Cezanne
Like Fantastique romantic notes of Berlioz
Slender cypresses in Provence
Weaving such a soothing melody
As sun playing over the golden wheat field
Like soft lights on the path to the midnight village
Like an afternoon nap under shade in the garden
The relaxing atmosphere slows everything.
Under the slender cypresses in Provence
I'd rather be a lazy cat
Enjoying the sunshine
Smelling the lavender
Melting into my blue sky
Not looking at the fickle Rhone
Which flows away from this lost heaven
Never to return.
Yes, time is slower in Provence. When I face Pont Du Gard, the aqueduct bridge with three tiers of arches across the gouge of the Gardon River, like a giant from ancient Rome, I feel time turning back two thousand years. I refer to Henry James to describe my work, Sunset Of Pont Du Gard. The novelist visited this artistic masterpiece of engineering and architecture in 1884.
“The hugeness, the solidity, the unexpectedness, the monumental rectitude of the whole thing leave you nothing to say – at the time – and make you stand gazing. You simply feel that it is noble and perfect, that it has the quality of greatness ... When the vague twilight began to gather, the lonely valley seemed to fill itself with the shadow of the Roman name, as if the mighty empire were still as erect as the supports of the aqueduct; and it was open to a solitary tourist, sitting there sentimental, to believe that no people has ever been, or will ever be, as great as that....”
A great culture always has its golden era. For my work, Golden Era, I drew inspiration from a castle in Les Baux de Provence. Set atop a rocky outcropping, in the Alpilles Mountains. Now in ruins, the castle overlooks the plains to the south in spectacular fashion. Builders used the mountain itself as part of the wall when they constructed the castle. Now there are thousands of holes and fissures left in the wall. Those were created by the passing of time, natural erosion, and human beings. It marked a golden era in the history of that region. My sculpture, Golden Era, is at National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. The jewelry series based on the sculpture, has golden yellow and shades of purple.
As a glass traveler, one of my best-loved features of France are the tree-lined roads. The Emperor Napoleon is credited with originating the policy of lining French roads with trees, to enable his soldiers to march in the shade. Another of my sculptures, Under The Tree Of Allees De La Liberte is a work about shade of oriental plane tree in South of France. Oriental Plane is a large, deciduous tree, with a spreading crown that can be seen everywhere along the street in France, as well as in the French concession in Shanghai. The most interesting thing is the Chinese name of Oriental Plane is French Indus. As a worldwide traveler from Shanghai, I loved discovering the huge shade trees in my wanderings. Those cool green shadows full of sparkling light-spots, always let me forget where I was and blur the borders of different cultures.
My Glass Journey is continuing. Traveling this big world, I know that charming Provence is a place I will go back to again.