Chicago offers numerous opportunities for visitors to explore works of art, but Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is celebrating Chinese art by bringing a new exhibit under its roof. An airport may not be a typical destination one seeks out for great masterpieces, but a recent installation by the Chinese artist Qiao Xiaoguang is hoping to change that. “City Windows,” a Chinese paper cutting panorama is prominently displayed in the United Terminal, near gate B19. On a recent journey, our family made a point of seeking out the display to teach our children about this ancient Chinese art.
Qiao Xiaoguang is one of the finest modern day practitioners of paper cutting and he has created fifteen panels featuring scenes from the Chicago and Beijing skyline to showcase his talent. He is the Director of the Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage Research Center at the Central Academy for Fine Arts in Beijing. Qiao Xiaoguang has traveled to the remote villages of China to learn the ancient art of paper cutting. It is his desire to keep the tradition of this ancient art form alive.
The exhibit is a panorama of images created using the fine art of Chinese paper cutting. Chinese paper cutting dates back over 1500 years. Traditionally women would learn the art of paper cutting and pass the skill on to their daughters, who would in turn teach their daughters the craft. Historically the images would symbolize health, happiness, and prosperity. Today Chinese paper cuts are often seen at festivals such as Chinese New Year, weddings, or religious celebrations and given as gifts to family and friends to express good wishes for one another.
The artwork symbolizes the friendship, business, and cultural ties that exist between the city of Chicago and China. Some of the easy to recognize buildings in the panels include Navy Pier and the Willis Tower as well as the Olympic Stadium and Forbidden City of Beijing. After the images were created on paper they were transferred onto plastic film in order to adhere them to the airport windows and create the permanent exhibit.
When driving into the “Departures” terminals the windows are visible on the right hand side of the road and their beauty is spectacular. To fully appreciate the exhibit, walk toward Gate B19 once you have passed through security. We had an early morning flight, so the sun was shining brightly through the panels resulting in a beautiful glow, like a sunrise behind the panels and the buildings. Our kids were fascinated by the intricacies of the panels and marveled at the artwork. They enjoyed identifying the familiar buildings, both here and in Beijing.
Our children are learning Mandarin so I am constantly seeking opportunities to teach them about Chinese culture and history. This new exhibit was brought to my attention by fellow Traveling Mom Megy Karydes and I jumped at the chance to share this artwork with my children. I don’t think we were prepared for the scale of the installation. The original panels are 51 x 24″ each, and these are much larger. It is fascinating that using only scissors and/or a knife, artists will magically transform paper into a three dimensional work of art. It didn’t take long to see the panels, but we definitely enjoyed admiring their beauty and learning about this ancient Chinese tradition. Best of all, it’s free, so if you have the time and inclination, a stop by these panels is definitely worth a visit.
There will also be an exhibition at The Field Museum of the original “City Windows” paper cuts. The Field exhibition will be on display through May of 2016 at the entrance to the museum’s new China Hall that will open in June. More information about the Field Museum exhibit can be found here: http://www.fieldmuseum.org/at-the-field/exhibitions/city-windows-chicagobeijing-panoramic-paper-cuts-professor-qiao-xiaoguang
Connect to two articles. 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, 10 Free Things to Do in Chicago