Chinese Madonna, Embroidery work, early 20th century, private collection

The Virgin Mother, Her Majesty, Our Lady: Globalism, All-Under-Heaven, and Madonna in-between

with Dong Lihui
Online Event
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
5:00 pm –  6:30 pm

European globalism and the Chinese “all-under-heaven”(天下) worldview are two of the most significant influences on the dynamics of visual cultural exchange between East and West. (“All-under-heaven” is a Chinese term for an ancient Chinese cultural concept that denoted either the entire geographical world or the metaphysical realm of mortals, and later became associated with political sovereignty.) These worldviews may seem like opposites on the surface, but as cultural phenomena they also present some crucial parallels. Within China, the influence of European globalism hybridized with early-modern Chinese (re)-constructed cultural identity as hegemons of the Central Kingdom (of the world). This hybridization of European globalism and the Chinese “all-under-heaven” worldview is evident in artefacts of Chinese visual culture.

This lecture describes that hybridity as observed in Chinese Madonna icons made between the 16th and 20th centuries. These icons include the white-robed Chinese Madonna, currently in the collection of Chicago’s Field Museum, the 20th century icon of “Queen Mother-Empress Dowager,” and the consecrated “Our Lady of China” created during the 1920s. The lecture focuses in particular on accounting for iconographic variations vis-a-vis social-political contexts, including the social function of the icon, its audience, its circulation, and the materials used in its production of these transcultural icons.

Dong Lihui is currently assistant professor in the School of Arts at Peking University. She has received PhD degrees in both Art History from Tsinghua University and the University of Pittsburgh. Her present research project centers upon art exchange between the East and West, and visual culture studies. She is the author of Chinese Translation of Western Images: Christian Art in China in the 16th and 17th century (New Taipei City: Hua Mulan cultural affairs press, 2018).

This program will be presented in English and Chinese.

Bridge Projects is pleased to announce “Light Through the Cracks,” a suite of online programs curated by art writer Clover Xuesong Zhou that compliments the upcoming show A Composite Leviathan.

The title comes from curator James Elaine who uses lyrics by Leonard Cohen to reflect on themes of the show: “There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” As he says in his curatorial statement, A Composite Leviathan “showcases a community of dispersed artists, living in a conflicting system of flux and control, who are drawing the lines that let the light in.” The programs of “Light Through the Cracks” further explore how art and spirituality exist within the cracks of historical and contemporary Chinese culture. As one of the cracks of reality, some reductionist views have focused too narrowly on the influence of Western art when accounting for the shape of Chinese contemporary art. In truth, Chinese contemporary art also has deep roots in its historical, cultural, and spiritual context, and “Light Through the Cracks” aims to present a more complete picture of Chinese contemporary art.

Most programs will be in English and Chinese and fully online—a choice that gives viewers an opportunity to hear from honored speakers from all over the world.