Miao Xiaochun Digital Projections at Traverse City’s Dennos Museum

Northern Michigan Events: Brush up on your art history 101—your Bosch, your Michelangelo, your Bruegel. Then head to Traverse City's Dennos Museum’s Miao Xiaochun exhibit to experience a 3-dimensional explosion of your art appreciation. The exhibit consists of four large digital video projections by Chinese artist and photographer Miao Xiaochun, all based on well-known Renaissance works.

Before leaving Traverse City to return to Beijing (via Ann Arbor and Chicago), the soft-spoken artist talked to me about his work and thoughts on his four days in Traverse City for the exhibit’s opening. He began by explaining his “The Last Judgment in Cyberspace,” a digital video projection take on Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel fresco “The Last Judgment,” which depicts Christ’s Second Coming and God’s heaven or hell judgment on 400 naked, nervous souls.  “I had this idea to see painting from [the] back,” Xiaochun said. "Normally you can see painting only from front. Never see from the back.” To alter that flat reality, Xiaochun made a digital image of himself, shorn of clothing and hair, using 3-D software. He then used his 3-D image to re-create all the figures in Michelangelo’s masterpiece—with his own image taking the place of every person in the painting. In the finished work, viewers are treated to back—and also side, top and bottom—views on a virtual walk through.

“I have a big shock when I finished this work,” Xiaochun said, explaining that in Michaelangelo's painting it is clear who is going to heaven and who is going to hell, who is good and who is bad. But that distinction is obscured in Xiaochun's 3-D version. It isn’t even clear who Jesus is. “It is a change of viewpoint. It is like Buddhism,” the artist says. “Everyone is equal.”

If Xiaochun’s work alters our Western perceptions, know that the artist departed Traverse City kindled by what we might recognize as a Midwestern work ethic. Time for reflection while here, he said, left him dissatisfied with his work.  “I need to change, to go more directions,” Xiaochun told me, crossing his legs and laughing slightly—the first punctuation to his otherwise serene persona in the hour we chatted.

The exhibit, which plays across the museum's walls, was funded in part by the new Global Opportunities Fund of Northwestern Michigan College. It will be on display until February 10, 2013. Click for more information.

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