Cai Xi Retrospective 1980-2015


PUTNEY >> There will be an Artist Reception, Saturday Sept. 24, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., at the Michael S. Currier Center on the campus of The Putney School, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney,.This survey of Cai's work includes her portraits and landscapes of the 1980s, 'Edge' series of the '90s, 'WuJi (Infinity Within)' series of the past decade and recent monumental portraits.

Cai was in the first generation of art students at universities in China reopening after the Cultural Revolution. This four-decade retrospective at Currier Center of Cai's work traces a path from the Hai Pai Shanghai Style of the '80s, with color used straight from the tube and brushwork with bold and loose strokes, to the present through a selection of Cai's portraits, landscapes and abstractions.

Sometimes, you have to pass through a gallery, looking, smelling – almost touching – works of art, taking them in, in a very physical way, and then you step away and let the effect wash over you, feeling the pieces, sequentially, as waves of an ocean surge and ebb, pulsing, receding, for a long time after you have left the scene. Later, wanting to reconnect, you come to the work again with a whole new body – new eyes, for sure. It enters your consciousness with a different, sensuously powerful energy; and before you know it, you are swept along in the hypnotic dance, discovering, in yourself, the steps the painter took when the painting was made. Like her work, Cai is never finished, never still even for a moment. But whether her work takes her to the kitchen, the canvas, the tai chi, the classroom, or the street, this warrior woman finds still-points, reflections, and time-warps to share with us, wherever she goes. Cai's life and work give credence to a line from an old song of the '60s, "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the Future."

Even in the '80s, Cai responded to assignments and creative practice with determination and joy. Already schooled in studio practice, Cai responded with strong, deeply felt portraits that are already masterly and indications of fierce talent. In her later work, large tai-chi-like gestures are massage-like in their rawness. Cai has a way of literally throwing her body, mind and soul into her painting, a method which results in passionate/poetic communications. Cai's teacher in art college said, "Go to where they are; don't give up an opportunity to learn and be inspired." I am thinking about how that teaching method has resulted in Cai's present practice of not only making her home an art-life center of creativity via food as art, communication as art, dealing with life issues with others as art but also Cai's Putney School experience of taking her students to China! Sort of duplicating her teacher's axiom of going to the source! As artist-teacher, Cai continues her teacher's courage to go into the unknown to create and find inspiration. Cai, like all artists who follow the muse of their inner voice, has been and continues to be in touch with inner voices that dictate her path. Her sensitivity is always shared, never ego-bound but stirring inside and shining so that those close to Cai, are taught by her focused art-light. Cai is a masterful-artist/lifeist. Thank you, Cai for your strong brush strokes; for your ability to translate persons to paint; for your courage to travel to the site of your vision. - Linda Montano

Two other concurrent exhibitions of Cai's painting: Selections from Cai's "Edge" series at C.X. Silver Gallery, 814 Western Ave., Brattleboro, through Sunday. By appointment, 802-257-7898, and selected landscapes from the "Earth & Sky" series at Vermont Artisan Designs, 106 Main St., Brattleboro.


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