NYU Shanghai Professor Barbara Edelstein has been proudly dubbed a “daughter-in-law” of Shanghai for her contributions to the city’s flourishing art scene. Now, the NYU Shanghai art professor’s story has been featured in a new volume of Americans in Shanghai, a series celebrating the stories of US citizens who have made their lives in the city.
The book explores Edelstein’s life and work, starting with her upbringing in Los Angeles, where Asian culture strongly influenced her development as a young artist in love with water and the medium of ink.
After graduating with a Master of Fine Arts from Claremont Graduate University, Edelstein moved to New York, where she met her future husband—Zhang Jian-Jun, then a visiting artist from China.
Now both professors at NYU Shanghai, Edelstein and Zhang continue to connect China and the world through the language of art. Combining East and West influences, their works encompass various forms, including sculpture, photography, video, installation, and ink painting.
“It was during the World Expo time, in 2010. A special curatorial committee, partly government and partly art critics and curators, selected the works. I designed a five-meter high sculpture in bronze and copper that rains water into a round pool. It’s again based on what I saw there. The bronze part is an abstracted willow leaf that I found when I visited the site. The copper is like a vine ball of the wisteria that was there. It’s a beautiful park.”
Some of the works were temporary, but Barbara’s was permanent. It’s still there. Whenever Barbara is in the park, the guard there will point out to visitors that she is the artist who made the sculpture.
When the work was installed and the fence and the frame around the sculpture were removed, neighbors of the park gathered round. “This is China: there are always people out and about,” Barbara said. “They use the park for dancing and walking their dogs. When we were there to get the water working, there was a crowd of people. They were really excited and cheered. They came up to me and told me they liked my work. They were very pleased it got established in ‘their’ park. As an artist, you want to make the world more beautiful. That was so nice for me to hear that they appreciated and enjoyed it.”
Barbara is concerned with how city dwellers lose track of nature, in large metropolises especially: “By using natural imagery, such as vines, trees, leaves, water—whatever is there—and abstracting it into a sculptural form; and by using man-made materials such as copper tubing, and adding the element of water, I try to bridge the industrial world we live in with the essence of nature.”
This post comes to us from NYU Shanghai. You can read the original here.