September 7, 2004 Vol. IX, No. 2

Meghan Lewis (left), CSUN art alumna, works at unwinding thread to help artist Su-Chen Hung create a "red sea" for CSUN Art Galleries exhibition. Red thread (right) "rain" on umbrella forms striking tableau.

Su-Chen Hung's 'Red Sea Series' Opens at CSUN Galleries

Miles of Thread 'Ties' Artist's Chinese Heritage to Contemporary Culture

Rich red loops of thread cover the floor of a bare white-walled space in the Cal State Northridge Art Galleries. Dead center are two eggs, side by side.

The urge to assign a specific symbolic meaning to this unnamed tableau is well understood by its creator, Bay Area artist Su-Chen Hung. But as an intuitive artist, Hung invites visitors to discover their own meanings for the works of art in her new "Red Sea Series" exhibition.

Three new installations are introduced in the exhibition, on view from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays through September 25 at the Art Galleries.

Using red thread as a recurring and uniting motif, each installation reveals what gallery director Louise Lewis describes as "the fluid dynamics" of cross-cultural identity.

From her native Taiwan, Hung brought an entire case of spools--each wound with 6,000 yards of red thread. Seven of those spools were laboriously unwound in spiraling loops to cover the floor of the first installation.

"We calculated that almost three and a half miles of thread were used for that one," Hung said.

It took Hung and a complement of CSUN art students 12 days to cover the entire floor space, working more than 12 hours a day to create the "ocean current" effect the artist was after. In the process, both Hung and the students learned to let the thread work its own magic.

"The thread will lead you where it wants to go," Hung said.

Suspended on a near invisible wire, a black umbrella slowly revolves under a shower of red thread "rain" in the center of the second installation. In the third, the thread is reinvented in countless ways on two walls of found objects. It flows through a small faucet, threads needles, even turns up as a gentleman's tiny bow tie and buttons in a vintage button card.

Reflective of Hung's Chinese heritage, the installations are in part a tribute to her dressmaker aunt, said the artist, explaining the prominence of needles, thread and the color red--associated in Chinese culture with luck and good blessings.

"The artist chooses everyday objects from contemporary Chinese and American cultures--dinnerware, shoes, umbrellas, small hardware items, as well as sewing thread--as a visual connection between her separate geographic and cultural identities," Lewis noted.

Hung's 2002 work, "WATER Spells," won the Crescordia Award for Art in Public Places. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants, as well as public arts commissions in Phoenix, Arizona and at San Francisco International Airport.

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