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Nature inspires Chinese artist’s Queens College show

While posing for a seemingly endless number of photos in front of huge canvasses that fill up much of the Queens College art gallery walls, Long Island City artist Marlene Tseng Yu was asked what inspired these massive, colorful works of art.

Tseng Yu smiled at the 12-by-36-foot paintings that have bursts of colors that abstractly depict such events as avalanches and melting glaciers.

“Nature, of course,” Tseng Yu said.

For more than 40 years, Tseng Yu has sought to depict nature in the murals that have drawn comparisons to abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock and been shown in 64 solo exhibitions in the United States, Europe and Asia. Last week she celebrated her exhibition “Nature and Cosmos” at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College, which runs through Nov. 24.

“The beauty of the universe changes with time,” Tseng Yu said in her artist’s statement for the show. “As the days pass and the seasons change, the sky, earth, mountains and rivers repeat in patterns that are never really quite the same. In my search for the variations of the many faces of nature, I have found that nature provides an infinite source of inspiration for artistic expression.”

Tseng Yu was born in Taiwan and opened a studio in Long Island City in 2008 after spending nearly 40 years in SoHo. She noted she had been trained in classical Chinese art, which she said helped to characterize her works known for their calligraphy and free brushwork.

“Marlene is a force of nature herself — truly a phenomenon,” Godwin-Ternbach Director and Curator Amy Winter said. “We are proud to present these virtuoso creations which reflect the power and flux of nature and the universe. It is as if the artist’s empathy with the very substance of nature and the universe were projected back onto the canvas itself. This exhibition celebrates her meteoric and inexhaustible talent.”

Art critic Donald Kuspit of Stony Brook University on Long Island spoke about Tseng Yu’s work at the reception.

“Marlene’s works are about the idealization of nature,” said Kuspit, who has written numerous pieces about Tseng Yu over the years. “This is a counterweight to the current situation of nature .… There is no place where humans have been that a place has not been disrupted by chemicals.”

Tseng Yu’s exhibit is one of many events being organized in conjunction with Queens College’s “Year of China” program, which includes performances by world-famous musicians and lectures by top scholars.

“I hope what people get out of the ‘Year of China’ is a deeper understanding of history, culture and the way China has shaped the world today,” said Queens College Vice President for Institutional Advancement Sue Henderson. “We feel firmly our students will enter a world where they have to think very globally. You have to understand different cultures.”

For more information about Queens College’s “Year of China,” visit qc.cuny.edu/yearofchina.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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