When you look up Belle Yang in her Red Room (dot-com) website, this is what you read under her name, “adult nonfiction, graphic novel, children’s picture book >Author. But one word that seems to be missing is “Painter.” As Belle simply states in her PBS documentary "When I'm writing, I'm a writer; when I'm painting, I'm a painter." Yes she is, indeed.
As an art exhibition curator, when I opened and read Belle Yang’s books, I walked into a museum gallery each time. On every page, I examined the art and studied her written words like labels on a gallery wall. And while immersed, there have been many times when I turn a page and look up as if to see her work in front of me. Well done Belle!
As an admirer, I have had the pleasure of seeing Belle Yang’s original artwork framed and exhibited in many galleries; watercolors, drawings and paintings that she creates for her many brilliant books. But most interesting is that many times I have heard and seen her viewers, from children to adults, react to her work, as if they are or want to be part of her evocative stories. Children will act out scenes from her books where Belle has drawn herself flying over communist China with large wings or where Mei-Mei and Di-Di call out to their beloved pet doves to please return to them, when set free. I have heard adult conversations about personal familial woes when Belle has written about her father's recollections. This is what led me to Belle’s work and to seek out her permission to create an exhibition at the National Steinbeck Center about her work and how others would become creatively engaged, if invited.
We are welcoming guest curator, CSUMB Visual & Public Art Professor, Lila Staples who has joined me along with VPA Professor Angelica Muro and her Spring 2012 digital art students to conceptually design a three dimensional “viewer-participation gallery,” based on Belle Yang’s artistic books and characters. The gallery will showcase Belle’s original works, (some never before seen and a demonstration of her father’s work). Her characters will come to life though projected and digital images, a children’s reading interactive area (where Belle will read from during her exhibition—dates TBA on NSC website), kinetic art, and much more.
Deborah Silguero, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the National Steinbeck Center