Landscapes and Cityscapes in Magill Take Viewers on a Journey

By Sophie Webb, Features Editor

The art gallery in Haverford’s Magill Library is nestled in the center of the building in the midst of books, study rooms, and students. The current exhibit, curated by Faye Hirsch, senior editor of Art in America, is a series of visual works by Haverford Professor of Fine Arts and Department Chair Ying Li. Li is an acclaimed artist whose work has been reviewed by The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Philadelphia Inquirer. The exhibit at Magill is entitled Ying Li: Geographies, and displays 24 of her landscape paintings and a handful of sketches known as her jazz drawings.

Entering the exhibit, the viewer is greeted by an array of colors that jump out from the paintings lining each wall of the room. The format of the exhibit brings the viewer full circle around the perimeter of the room, back to the start point. The journey through the exhibit feels like a trip, each set of paintings inspired by a different place in Li’s life. The exhibit begins with some of Li’s jazz drawings. The sketches feature humans-some playing instruments, some drawn in black, others in blue or red. The viewer is then transported to New York City. Li spent time residing and creating art in New York City, and the paintings in this section of the gallery imitate the vibrancy of the city and the bustling of human life. The paintings here are bold and chunky, with the paint applied heavily in many layers on the canvasses. The pieces in this section and throughout the exhibit are designed to play with the viewer’s perception, offering one image as seen from up close, and another from a few steps back.

After New York City, the viewer travels to the coast of Cranberry Island, Maine. The paintings here are in the same chunky style that Li used in New York City, and connected by a purple hue depicting one of Li’s favorite subjects: water. The journey continues from Maine to Switzerland, transitioning from a purple theme to a blue one, and from chunky, textured paintings, to smooth ones. The works in this section show Lake Maggiore and its surrounding mountainscapes on the border of Switzerland and Italy. These are followed by more city works, organized in a 6×6 grid of individual pieces that collaborate to form a larger image. The exhibit ends with another set of jazz drawings. This return to the simplicity of the sketches perhaps is perhaps symbolic of a return for Li back to normalcy. Done with her travels, she’s back with her sketchpad, observing and creating.

The exhibit is open until Oct. 7, and is supported by the John B. Hurford ‘60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, as well as the Haverford College Libraries.

From the print edition published Oct. 5, 2016

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