Relationship between real, digital worlds inspired Arts Walk cover artist China Star

Contributing writerApril 25, 2013 


    What: China Star’s “Peaceful City,” a kaleidoscopic collage in relief, is on the cover of this spring’s Arts Walk map. That collage and more of Star’s work, including an installation, sculpture, posters and prints as well as additional relief work, will be on exhibit.

    When: 5-10 p.m. today; noon-5 p.m. Saturday

    Where: The Steam Plant, 113 Thurston Ave. NE, Olympia

    See more: Star’s nests, made of moss, lichen and human hair, and more prints will be at the Yoga Loft, 219 Legion Way SW.

    Meet the artist: She’ll have work in two locations. Star has split her Friday evening schedule. She’ll be at the Yoga Loft from 5-6:45 p.m. and The Steam Plant from 7:15-9 p.m.

    More information: or Made by China on Facebook

When you look at the cover of the Arts Walk map, China Star’s collage appears to be two-dimensional.

When you see “Peaceful City” in person, the 3-foot-by-3-foot work is a relief an inch and half thick.

“There’s a lot of physical depth in the piece,” said Stephanie Johnson, the city of Olympia’s arts and events manager. “It’s very layered. I would almost call it low-relief sculpture.”

The dimensional confusion is appropriate, given that Star’s series of collages explore community and relationships in an era when so much of both happen on screens.

“When we interact in person, we’re talking, but we’re also sharing energy and the vibes that exist between people,” said Star, who’s an Olympia writer and performer as well as a visual artist who’s worked in a variety of media. “Now, we’re interacting so much more in the cybersphere. We’re creating this alternate reality — who we are on social-media sites, how we present ourselves on the Web, texting and email, too.

“The vibes still exist, but what does that look like?”

She started creating portraits, working with the feeling of interaction in two dimensions. Then she started pinning them on the wall, seeing how they could interact. When she thought about showing the work, she at first envisioned one giant collage as an installation, but soon settled on smaller collages, using images that repeat across the series.

The repetition of a single image represents the multiple selves one person may have on Facebook, Twitter and the like.

While the kaleidoscopic patterns and mirror images might call to mind a computer’s copy-and-paste functions, Star avoids high tech manipulation in her art. She draws the images by hand, then copies them on a photocopy machine – or sometimes traces them, cuts them out, colors them with markers and arranges them.

“There never have been two pieces that are identical,” she said.

Her collages also resemble mandalas, and that reflects the way she works on them.

“My personal studio process is very much a meditation,” she said. “It’s really process-based. There are a lot of steps.”

She hopes that the connotations of a mandala will influence how viewers experience the art.

“The viewer is already used to the mandala as something to delve into,” she said. “I’m asking the viewer to take a deeper look at the dialogue between these characters as a representation of how we are connected in a larger context.”

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