For the Mentor Program, by Molmol Kuo
at Queens Museum, 2017
It is a four months long program, designed to support local residents and artists of Queens Borough to continue their exploration in art and media.
Meet the Mentees of 2017 Programs
Nancy was born in Quang Province in the early 1920s. She is a recent immigrant of New York. I visited her home in Long Island via Long Island railroad, and walked for 20 minutes to get to her apartment. She lives in a senior apartment complex. Her children (and grand children) lives within walking distance from her studio apartment.
Nancy had invited me to come visit her studio apartment and see her work on knitting and weaving. She was interested in breathing life into her work and bringing her knitted objects into life by adding motors or mechanism and making them move. I have been working with electronics for a long time. I had a feeling that this could be more than a mentor-mentee relationship, but more of a collaborations between us, cross culture, cross generation, and cross medium.
I had a feeling that she is full of stories, so while I was treated with great vegetarian meal in her apartment. I beg her to tell me about her life.
Nancy grew up in a wealthy and educated family, she was determined to become a journalist and a writer as a young student. However, since her family supported and fought for the uprising of Democracy in China between 1907 – 1927, Nancy and her family became a target in Mao’s China. To survive, she graduated from schools with the highest scores and was permitted to finish college. Later in life she became a teacher in a high School and then a college professor in Guang Province. She was not able to write freely, and her dream to become a journalist was unlikely. She avoided politics for her whole life, but managed to write for local magazines on the subjects of daily life, book reviews, and eventually helped to start a local magazine for senior readers. She lived through the Chinese Civil Wars in 1927, then the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). She remain till this day the desire to write.
Nancy was my student in a 2016 workshop. At that workshop, I asked the students to create a self-portrait sculpture using self-collected “small data”, and using ready-found materials. Here’s a picture of Nancy and her work from the workshop.
I encouraged her to explore her relationship with writing through knitting and weaving, and think about ways she can express with this medium. I also showed her the project: Crochet Coral Reef — borrowing from knitted object to recreate a world full of metaphor. Knowing that Nancy used her computers to write and went online daily, I had created a Pin board for her Inspiration. Link to the Inspiration Board.
When we meet next time, we are going to shape the project concept.
Nancy showed me around her studio apartment: