Chinese cartoons filled with joy, togetherness – The Free Weekly



Family First: Chinese cartoons filled with joy, togetherness

BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwaonline.com

You never know what you’ll find in the permanent collections of the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum! Right now, for example, you can see something you probably wouldn’t expect on exhibit in the Sandi and Sandy Sanders Gallery — the cartoons of Feng Zikai, described as a prolific artist, writer and intellectual who made strides in the fields of music, art, literature, philosophy and translation throughout the middle decades of the 20th century.

Born in 1898 in the Zhejiang Province of China, Zikai was a pioneer in Chinese cartoon art, and after his passing in 1975, his name remains alive in the Feng Zikai Chinese Children’s Picture Book Award, established in 2009.

Garrett Copeland, the new marketing coordinator for FSRAM, answered these questions about the current exhibition, which will remain on show through Sept. 22.

Q. How many pieces are in this exhibition? And what kinds of pieces?

A. This exhibition is a portfolio of 32 works. While Zikai was known in many circles for his political satire comics, his images of children and family that are shown in this exhibit are a much more common topic for his work.

Q. How did works by Feng Zikai become part of the FSRAM permanent collection?

A. The generous works were generously donated to RAM by Mr. and Mrs. Clifton Tankersley in 2019. Clifton Tankersley and the rest of this family have always been big fans of the FSRAM and longtime art collectors. After deciding to downsize on some art, they wanted to donate the pieces to the museum so they would be preserved and best taken care of.

Q. What inspired an exhibit of those works at this particular time?

A. The thought was two-fold, actually. First, since Zikai is often called “the Father of Chinese comics,” I thought he would be a big crowd pleaser since we see a lot of younger visitors with families during the summer months. The second reason is the subject matter. Families playing together, eating together, learning together, just being together as a family. The images are happy, joyful and evoke a spirit of calm and reflection for the viewer.

Q. What do you see in Zikai’s works that reflects the mission of FSRAM?

A. Zikai is just a small piece of our mission puzzle. Right now, if you walk through the galleries at RAM you will find Doyle Young’s paintings of the Old South and Southern Delta, Future School’s students’ vision of their future, Shabana Kauser’s inspiring work influenced by her Pakistani heritage, and Feng Zikai’s images of family in the Chinese countryside. The more diversity people are exposed to, be it the type of media, subject matter, or style of artwork, the more they appreciate and understand the importance of “art” to a community.

Q. What’s next in the Sandi and Sandy Sanders Gallery?

A. On view Sept. 17–Dec. 24 will be “Selections from the Permanent Collection: New Works.” This exhibit will explore timeless classics of RAM’s collection while highlighting some of our new acquisitions.

Q. What other jewels like this are hidden away in the permanent collection that people might not know about?

A. The one that first comes to mind is Susan Morrison: River Journeys Portfolio. Morrison is an Arkansas artist that works in pen and ink and encaustic wax colored pencil. She is also a poet, author and environmentalist. All of these talents converged to create the River Journeys Portfolio, which features works of the Illinois, Buffalo, King and Mulberry rivers, along with poetry paying an homage to each one. Never fear, though, you will be able to see Morrison’s River Journeys Portfolio at RAM. River Journeys will be on view Oct. 21, 2023- Jan. 14, 2024.

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FAQs

Feng Zikai: Selections From the Permanent Collection

WHEN — Through Sept. 22

WHERE — Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

COST — Free

INFO — fsram.org

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