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January 18, 2005 > Impressions of China

Impressions of China

The month of February is auspicious since it marks the Chinese New Year and this year, the beginning of The Year of the Rooster. Among the character traits of those born under the sign of the rooster are hardworking, talented people who are good world travelers. This description also matches a local artist and her show that will debut at Mission Coffee during the month of February.

Jan Schafir has been studying and teaching art for fifteen years. Her studio, Jan's Art Studio on Fremont Boulevard, has been a home for her art and classes as well as four other local artists for the past ten years. She began painting through an adult education and other Fremont city programs in the mid '60's and strengthened her skills in classes with Jade Fon, a distinguished California plein-air painter whose work combines Oriental influences and regionalism called "California Style."

Ms. Schafir has attended workshops in Europe by a number of artists including Charlotte Britton, a well-respected plein air and studio painter. Jan shares her knowledge and love of painting by teaching classes at Jan's Art Studio and at the La Romita School of Art at Terni, in the Umbria region of Italy.

Three years ago, Jan took a three week Elderhostel trip entitled, "The Capitals of China." Her journey began in Hong Kong and continued throughout mainland cities including ten air flights between cities. True to her artistic nature, Jan was constantly taking pictures and sketching throughout her travels. On her return, she says, "I decided to do a series of paintings on China - my interpretations." Hundreds of pictures and memories remain unpainted at this time so Jan notes that "this show I am doing at Mission Coffee Roasting Company is a fruition of these paintings. I have, by no means done all the paintings I want to do. This is maybe the first of several shows I would like to do on China. I have about fifteen paintings in this show."

The highlight of her life, says Jan, was "sitting on the Great Wall of China, sketching!" She adds that another highlight was traveling along the Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia and third longest in the world before the Three Gorges Dam - due to be completed in 2009 - expected to help control flooding will paradoxically flood many ancient villages and farms. "I was really impressed with the progress that China has made," says Jan. As an example, when the group arrived in Shanghai, Jan says the art museum was "state of the art."

The tour was not without humor. Jan comments that many of us remember trying to dig a hole to China in our youth. One of the guides told the group that young children in China often dug holes trying to reach America. These kids were also told to finish their plates of food because of the "poor, starving kids in America!" In Dali, one of the most renowned historic and cultural cities of China, home to the Bai people, women still dressed in native costume. Jan recalls seeing a table in an open-air market with "a bunch of teeth laying on it from dentures" from which people could make their own dentures. She says that the local people laughed at the group because "we had big noses."

Most paintings in the show are of objects in museums - some of ancient warriors, some of masks - while others illustrate Chinese landscapes. "I went to my digital photographs and picked those that really impressed me. I just started painting." One of the pictures - of the Great Wall - was imbedded in Jan's mind "not only because I was able to sit on the wall and sketch, but because the cherry blossom trees were blooming at the time. I expected the area to be barren. My picture has cherry trees in it." Landscapes were also impressive. "As you travel along the river, you see these high, 'gumdrop-type' mountains reflected in the rice fields. That was quite beautiful."

Objects reflected in this exhibit include paintings of souvenirs Jan was able to bring back with her. One is of slippers women used to wear when their feet were bound to stunt foot growth. Another is of a "coolie" hat. The artwork of the show is a peek into the impact China had on Jan. Her impressions are of a land of ancient history that has survived a series of revolutions while retaining long-standing traditions and skills such as handmade, double-sided embroidery, detail of sugar candies and finely honed musical talents. "They are wonderful people; I was very impressed."

On a tour of the "New Territories" near Hong Kong, skyscrapers reached thirty to forty stories, housing people working in an industrialized concrete world. This area juxtaposed with outlying older villages where people still live in small, walled communities. In a way, this part of Jan's journey illustrated the extremes of China at a crossroads of industrialization.

Jan says that to "paint" China, she would use "brilliant colors" except for the landscapes which would be portrayed in muted tones. Some of the large cities were very smoggy, but overall, she would use the bright colors of the costumes - red, green and gold - which are indicative of good luck. "China is similar to the United States in that there are many different types of geography." She adds that the cities are similar with lots of cars, but also many bicycles. Ancient rickshaws are still prevalent, but now are powered by all sorts of things including motorcycles, bicycles and tractors. "These are industrious people."

Jan Schafir's exhibit will be shown throughout the month of February at Mission Coffee Roasting Company, 151 Washington Boulevard (near Mission Boulevard) in Fremont. This show is a sampling of her visit to China. Jan says picking her next series will be easy since she has much to choose from - eleven "smart cards," each containing one hundred twenty-eight pictures. In the meantime, come by and visit China and have something to eat with a great cup of freshly-roasted coffee at Mission Coffee.

A reception for the show will be held on Sunday, February 13 from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. at Mission Coffee Roasting Company. Jan invites the public to attend and listen to Jules Goldberg on the keyboard and Jonathan and Tiffany Tsay play an ancient Chinese string instrument (violin) called Erh-hu. Jonathan just returned from Shanghai, China where he won a top award for excellence playing this instrument.

Impressions of China
February 1 - 28, 2005

Mission Coffee Roasting Company
151 Washington Blvd., Fremont
(510) 623-6920

Artist Reception
Sunday, February 13
3 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Information: (510) 797-2836

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