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Chinese artist’s exhibit in Cary is missing 3 paintings. The town says they’re too political.

Artist Bing Weng views three of her pieces of art that she says were removed at the Cary Senior Center before the reception for her show Jan. 25, 2019.
Artist Bing Weng views three of her pieces of art that she says were removed at the Cary Senior Center before the reception for her show Jan. 25, 2019. Courtesy of Bing Weng

An art exhibition in Cary by a Chinese artist isn’t giving visitors the full picture, she says.

Make that three full pictures.

Chinese artist Bing Weng was prepared to display 38 paintings at the Cary Senior Center in the show titled “Blooming Life.” But three days before the show’s Jan. 22 opening, she was asked to remove three paintings from the show. The paintings had been displayed from Jan. 18-22.

Weng generally paints philosophical and still life themes. The three paintings left out protest Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dictatorship, she said.

Email correspondence between Weng and the town’s public art coordinator, Denise Dickens, show that Dickens believed the three works in question fell outside the scope of Weng’s exhibition application.

“Nothing gave us any indication that you would be submitting for exhibition paintings political in nature,” Dickens wrote. “We were only shown exquisitely painted still-lifes of flowers and portraits.”

Dickens noted that the review panel regarded Weng’s art to be of “high quality” and that “it would be visually pleasing to a general audience visiting the Senior Center.”

In a interview with Radio Free Asia, Weng said she was told the three paintings were too “political” for the show. RFA is a private, nonprofit corporation, funded by Congress through the United States Agency for Global Media that provides news coverage of Asian current events.

Lyman Collins, Cary’s cultural arts manager, told RFA the paintings were excluded because they were “inconsistent” with the character of the works Weng had submitted with her application.

“That was the basis for their removal,” Collins told RFA.

One of the paintings depicted an ink-splashed portrait of Xi Jinping. Another has Xi standing on the shoulders of late supreme leader Mao Zedong, surrounded by numerous skulls. The final painting shows a hand hovering over a map of Asia with China painted black.

Weng said she was exercising her freedom of speech by exhibiting all of her paintings, something she could not do in China. Weng came to North Carolina in October to visit her daughter.

“When I am in China, I have no freedom of speech, so I couldn’t paint political work,” she said.

The paintings were briefly displayed with a disclaimer from the Senior Center before the show officially opened, said Cary spokeswoman Susan Moran.

“The views expressed are those of the artist and not the view of the Cary Senior Center and Town of Cary,” it read.

The town received two phone-in complaints about the paintings, she said.

The paintings also were displayed Jan. 25 during a reception for the show’s opening. But Weng took them with her following the reception, Moran said.

Weng, who was not paid by Cary for the exhibition, subsequently posted images of the paintings left out of the exhibition on her Facebook page. She includes a brief message explaining each painting. She applied to exhibit in Cary last year before these three works were begun.

The exhibition runs through Feb. 15.

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