Glass Artist Nancy Gong Traces A War Bride's Historical Life Journey From East to West

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Award winning architectural glass artist Nancy Gong turned an invitation to participate in Art Reflected 1913-2013, a centennial exhibition and fund raiser at the Memorial Art Gallery February 8 thru March 10 into a visual story of a war bride’s historical immigration journey on glass. Gong traces the history of the 1880 Chinese Exclusion Act, its quotas and its repeals up through a recent apology in 2011 from the U.S. Congress for the discriminatory immigration law aimed at a specific ethnic and working group and its effect on Asian women and the growth of Asian families in the US.

"The design celebrates the strength, courage, forward thinking and experiences of a modern woman from 1925 through the 80’s by tracing a War Bride’s life."

What started as an invitation to participate in Art Reflected 1913-2013, a centennial exhibition opening February 9th at the Memorial Art Gallery, has turned into an opportunity to focus on a personal historical immigration journey for award winning Rochester glass artist Nancy Gong. Forty regional artists were asked to create new art inspired art in the gallery’s permanent collection. It’s part of a fundraiser for the gallery’s Centennial Celebration. Gong, a first generation American born Chinese, chose the contemporary work of Juane Quick-To-See Smith’s Famous Names, a collage painting that tells the story of hardships and discrimination towards Native American Women.

In Gong’s art glass creation, War Bride, the artist traces the history of the 1880 Chinese Exclusion Act, its quotas and its repeals up through a recent apology in 2011 from the U.S. Congress for the discriminatory immigration law aimed at a specific ethnic and working group. The glass design travels though one hundred thirty one years of the immigrations act’s effect on Asian women and the growth of Asian families in the US.

Nancy Gong’s War Bride is inspired by her mother’s life journey. It is an interactive design that comes alive when layers of etched and painted mouth blown and dichroic glass catch the light as the viewer moves around the artwork. The design celebrates the strength, courage, forward thinking and experiences of a modern woman from 1925 through the 80’s by tracing a War Bride’s life.

Nancy Gong, an architectural glass artist is among the first wave of trained American glass artists to embrace a new to the US laminating process originating in Germany. Known for combining the old with the new for a fresh modern approach, the artist takes the lead in developing a dimensionally intriguing vocabulary in art glass weaving six layered surfaces of painted and etched photographic images and textures into one mysterious work of art glass suitable for interior or exterior applications.

More on the design: Searches of ship manifests, consulate records, service records, in depth conversations with her father, a new connection to an uncle never met, photos from her sister’s travels, weeks of internet research blended with the artist’s personal connection to the culture helped pieced together facets of the war brides life. The glass artist has collected many stories along the way to generate a vivid picture of her experiences. The artist noted: “There were so many detailed questions that needed to be answered to helped create the visual story. The curiosity was like that of a child. I have so much information. I could probably go on for while telling the war bride’s story.” The art unveils mysterious colors and multiple layers of images painstakingly sorted out to capture a sense of time. Meanwhile, informing aspects of the bride’s life in the east, a young armed forces member and his war bride being carried in a sedan chair to the groom’s village, a wedding in a small village, life in the rural villages, rice fields and more rice fields and the progression of the journey to the Golden Mountain in the US are charted. Gong hopes the art will help to bring an awareness and significance of the War Brides’ time in US history as the beginning of a greater presence and the beginning of Chinese and other Asian families and their experiences to people of all walks of life, of multiple generations.

War Bride in the Art Reflected Centennial Exhibit and fundraiser at the Memorial Art Gallery will be on display February 9 thru March 9.

About the artist: Nancy Gong, is an architectural glass artist and owner of the award winning studio of Gong Glass Works with installations throughout the U.S. and abroad. Since 1979, her work has been published in dozens of trade and design magazines. She is an active member of the American Glass Guild, Glass Art Society, Society of American Mosaic Artists and the Stained Glass Association of America. Gong is an affiliate member of American Institute of Architects - AIA Rochester.

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Nancy Gong
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