Dexiang Qian, Da Vinci Art Alliance

Dexiang Qiannatural memory spiritual traveling, Da Vinci Art AllianceBalance, oil on canvas, 40″ x 40″, 2014,

Lilliana S. Didovic and Dexiang Qian, natural memory spiritual travelingDa Vinci Art Alliance

Denise Shubin, empresario of Shubin Theater, graciously provided a walking tour of the spectacular art exhibit natural memory spiritual traveling by Lilliana S. Didovic and Dexiang Qian at South Philly’s historic art club and gallery Da Vinci Art Alliance704 Catharine Street, Philadelphia, PA., 19147.

“I am primarily a performing artist but Lilliana has asked me to say a few things while we look at the paintings. But, I actually brought a short piece to read by Kurt Vonnegut that relates to everybody here. It’s been floating around facebook and I think it’s the most magnificent little thing. And it goes like this:

“(If you really want to hurt your parent, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is) go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” – Kurt Vonnegut (I added the parentheses because the facebook quote leaves out the first part – LOL!)

We are here today because these people have created something. I am also of the belief that if all of us were to simply utilize our God given talents, honestly, and give of them and receive of others their gifts the World would naturally heal. One of the things that’s wrong with our World is only a few of us have the courage to express our passions. The arts here today are an exception to that. And this is what we’re seeing.”

Lilliana S. Didovic, Da Vinci Art Alliance

Lilliana S. Didovicnatural memory spiritual traveling, Da Vinci Art AllianceAlley, mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 24″, 2013, Kala, mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 24″, 2013 and Mahala, mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 24″, 2013.

“You guys can look at their biographies and talk a little about their accomplishments other that what you see here. Lilliana has achieved so much I can’t quite even get it, you know? She fled her homeland and came to this country not speaking a word of English and not speaking English, she learned English in order to actually get a Masters Degree in Psychology. She lives every day with particular challenges that most of us don’t have to deal with and she just brings forth this vibrant, beautiful work.

Dexiang Qian also comes from another country, he is an incredible accomplished professor, is highly revered in China, has won numerous awards and comes back and forth to here. And they both have to deal with the challenges of language and cultural differences. And everything else. However, through the arts there are no language barriers. And when we look at these paintings they communicate directly to us. We’re going to do an improvisation here and I’m going to pretend what I know what I’m talking about. And I would like you guys to also pretend I know what I’m talking about.

We’re going to start with Lilliana’s work. Lilliana has combined her experiences of living here, her chosen second homeland – this bizarre world known as Philadelphia, that even those of us who have always lived here can’t particularly understand. So we have a place to live but she had to come from somewhere else.

Here there are a trilogy of allies. We’re famous for our allies in our little town here in Philadelphia. This is Kala from Šibenik, Mahala from Sarajevo and an alley in Philadelphia. You’ll see this theme as we go through her work, that she brings her three worlds together. This is an alley way in Philadelphia and you can see that Isaiah Zagar has totally influenced you, you’ve been wandering around our allies and the mosaics with the bottles and the faces, we’ve got his total input of our beloved South Street, which is where I live, I’m just one block off of South Street.”

Dexiang Qian, Da Vinci Art Alliance

Dexiang Qiannatural memory spiritual traveling, Da Vinci Art Alliance, Great Wall of South, oil on canvas, 24″ x 18″, 2013, Worship, oil on canvas, 24″ x 18″, 2013 and Curved Mountain, 24″ x 18″, oil on canvas, 2013.

One of the larger paintings is imbued with religious symbolism and Lilliana explained the symbols:

“It’s peace, loves and beliefs. Here we have the lotus flower, a symbol of Buddhism, a peace symbol, the star of David which is Jewish, ‘I love you’ in Chinese because Dexiang is Chinese. And that’s from the Orthodox, the Serbian Orthodox religion and a mosque for Islam. The idea is all beliefs, all in peace.” – Lilliana

“And it means soul. This is why we do what we do.” – Denise

Lilliana S. Didovic, Da Vinci Art Alliance

Lilliana S. Didovicnatural memory spiritual traveling, Da Vinci Art AllianceOf South 2, mixed media on canvas, 40″ x 30″, 2012, $2200.00

Dexiang Qian, Da Vinci Art Alliance

Dexiang Qiannatural memory spiritual traveling, Da Vinci Art AllianceGathering Flowers, oil on canvas, 24″ x 24″, 2013.

“Dexiang, Dexiang, Dexiang and your lovely wife Migli, don’t hide! I need you! Obviously what we see here are contrasting styles. Lilliana has largely an impressionistic style, so here we have a more realistic style. When we converse with these people, they speak Chinese and I don’t, and I’ve tortured his wife because she speaks a little more English than Dexiang but I’m getting the feeling behind the work of a lot of the pieces but in the nature of the work it is mixing the West with the East. For instance, this is like the Renaissance, with western symbolism in the backgrounds. With these paintings, the frame is meant to actually represent a church (referring to Adoration of the Child), the frame was made special to depict the periods of a woman’s life. Ranging from a young woman to motherhood to the elderly. The backgrounds are extremely important, there’s is the contrast between West and East. What I see is gorgeously beautiful, incredible work, incredibly beautiful technique, heart soul and mastery.”

Lilliana S. Didovic, Da Vinci Art Alliance

Lilliana S. Didovicnatural memory spiritual traveling, Da Vinci Art AllianceHamam Bar Dancer, mixed media on canvas, 48″ x 36″, 2013, $3400.00

“This is a belly dancer, clearly.” said Denise. Lilliana added, “This is Hamam Bar, the first public bathroom in Europe. Built for the British Empire and it’s transformed today into a nightclub with dancers. And now it’s a casina. now even more modern.

Denise continued, “With Bridges, Lilliana’s done the same thing she’s done with the trilogy of allies, she’s created a trilogy of bridges. We’ve got the Ben Franklin, Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo bridge and Šibenik, bringing her three worlds together. The painting of three cathedrals are Šibenik, one of the most famous in Europe, the Sarajevo cathedral and Philadelphia. She’s really brought together her World. And as someone who knows Lilli well, she’s my personal friend, more than anybody else, when I see her work I think, ‘It’s so HER!’ I mean, it explodes, she’s colorful, she’s alive, she’s expressive and the work is just her. And I love you to death.”

Dexiang Qian, Da Vinci Art Alliance

Dexiang Qiannatural memory spiritual traveling, Da Vinci Art AlliancePumpkin Carriage, oil on canvas, 30″ x 40″, 2013.

“I want to close with, this is actually a gift to Lilliana, a quote that I memorized years ago. Committed to memory because it was a handout in a seminar I took that was so inspiring that it was probably twenty-five years ago and I can always draw on it when I need to remember why I’m here. And it relates to everyone, nobody I know has been through more in her life that I know than Lilliana and I’m sure you do to. It’s a quote by George Bernard Shaw and it goes like this:

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” Amen- George Bernard Shaw

Lilliana S. Didovic, Da Vinci Art Alliance

Lilliana S. Didovicnatural memory spiritual traveling, Da Vinci Art AllianceBridges, mixed media on canvas, 40″ x 30″, 2013, $2200.00

Lilliana has sixteen paintings in the exhibit, Dexiang has fifteen, most of the work is new – 2014. I asked Lilliana how she created so much new work with her son, Gordan, spent so much time last year at Children’s Hospital.

“I was motivate by him. I work with mixed media, I work with acrylics but I mix crystals, Swarovski, rhinestones, just glass, glitter…I never actually do one at a time. I start to do a couple paintings and then I mix and match. I have one idea on one, then I work on another one, each is about a week of work, it all depends. I was trying to combine the city of my birth, Kibenik, Croatia, Sarajevo, Bosnia and my memories from there then Philadelphia, my destination and adopted city.”

Dexiang is a professor of painting in China but also has a studio in Philadelphia. Migli said:

“Dexiang has a studio in Beijing, he works in Beijing but Hunan is our home town, so, we go back to visit with our relatives. So our home base is in Beijing but we travel a lot. He used to be a professor at Hunan Normal University but then he came here and he like here the museums. He can see the work of great artists everyday if he wants. He likes it here but he like painting in Beijing because he has a lot of friends and students and can find more information there. But after he can come back here and paint with the information. His friends and students in Beijing find out he’s there they come to visit him, some from a long, long time ago. They say, ‘Oh! He’s my teacher. We haven’t seen each other for so long. He also finds models for the work, it’s easier than here. If he needs a model he can talk to them and show them what to do and they say, ‘Oh, oh! I can do this.’ They help. His students are all artists and they find him space for him but his students fight to be with him. LOL!”

EuroCircle Art Opening with Lilliana S. Didovic, Wednesday, February 19, 2014 6-8 pm

“Join Eurocircle as we explore the exhibit natural memory spiritual traveling by two artists Lilliana Didovic, an expressionist, and Dexiang Qian a traditional painter. Born in Croatia, and having escaped her homeland of Bosnia in 1992, Didovic was granted political asylum in USA in 1995. Here, she has won numerous awards and established herself as a true Philadelphian artist through countless solo and group exhibitions. She currently serves on the Board of Directors at the DaVinci Art Alliance. From the opposite side of the globe, we present Dexang Qiang, from the city of Hunan, Zhijiang. He is a former professor of Fine arts from Hunan Normal University, and the current president of American Association of original artists. He divides his time living in China and Philadelphia. In his beautiful traditional oil paintings, Dexiang will paint Philadelphia images with his native China in his heart. Lilliana s paintings make connection between three cities that have influenced her life, Kibenik, Croatia, her home city of Sarajevo, Bosnia and adopted city of Philadelphia, USA. Our evening begins with wine and light hors d oeuvres. We will have the pleasure of meeting both artists in person, for an in depth view of their collection.”

Thank yo so much to Denise Shubin, Lilliana Didovic and Dexiang Qian for sharing their thoughts, ideas and art with us at Da Vinci Art AllianceThere is so much to be learned from these wonderfully creative people who have endured so much, worked so hard and shared so much of their life and love with the people of Philadelphia. I am particularly grateful for the friendship and caring Lilliana and Dexiang have shown for me, from sharing delicious food and conversation to encouragement and enlightenment. Imagine a master of painting like Dexiang Qian saying he likes your paintings? Imagine being friends with brave people who escaped a war with nothing but their love for each other? I feel so humbled and honored to be included in an international group of friends; there’s no place like home.

Written and photographed by DoN Brewer except where noted.

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