Merced artist draws on native China for inspiration

mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 27, 2014 

The mountains, tea trees, rice terraces and a small river running through the middle of it all in a farming village in China are the inspiration for the artwork on display at the Los Banos library.

Merced resident SangMei Goosby harkens back to her Starlight Village as she paints in watercolor and ink. She also plays the guzheng, which is a Chinese instrument, similar to a harp, that dates back more than 2,000 years. Her artwork will be on display for the next six weeks at the Los Banos Library, 1312 S. Seventh St.

When Goosby moved to the United States two years ago, she began a journey that includes understanding American culture.

“I am just getting myself situated,” she said, “because everything in America is new. I’m just trying to adapt to the culture and trying to find my place.”

Goosby said her husband also inspires her work.

Growing up, Goosby loved to draw. Since her family was poor, they could not afford extra paper or pencils, she said.

Goosby would use sticks or sharp stones to draw in the dirt and mud. Inside her home, she would use charcoal that was burned from the kitchen stove to draw on walls.

With school approaching, she didn’t have much extra time, but her love for drawing never died, she said.

She secretly saved her lunch money to purchase art books so that she could teach herself. She said she would hide her drawings because if her teachers found out, she would be ridiculed. Later, her art was noticed and she was accepted into China’s most prestigious art university. Her family insisted that she attend business college instead.

Since being in America, she has been encouraged by many to study traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. “The basic thing (I use) is ink,” she said. “Most of my paintings here have a little bit of color. All the colors in traditional painting is natural. It’s either from plants or minerals.”

She uses Chinese rice paper for painting. It’s very thin, and when she adds watercolor to it, it splashes more than it would on regular paper. And depending on how much or where it splashes, will determine how her piece will come out.

“After you make any mistakes, you cannot correct it,” she said. “Every stroke is the defining moment.”

She also does not use any models for her paintings and each piece is done freehand. “Traditional painting, to me, is one of those very exciting things,” she said. “I feel they are kind of old treasure in China. From those paintings, I can always learn traditional culture.”

Since Chinese painting is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world, it has become her greatest passion, she said.

Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6562 or mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.com.

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