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Updated: Mar 11

Author: Dolly Wang

Overseas Chinese woman writer. Former journalist for the World Journal in Texas and Editor-in-Chief for <Passion Garden> at China Outreach. Former columnist under pen names Wang Yumei and Wang Jie for newspapers and magazines. Now retired, focusing on writing and collage art creation.

Upon completing an eight-session chemotherapy regimen and finishing reading "Turning Point of Cancer - Body and Mind Therapy for Cancer," I often found myself by the seaside and in the mountains near my home, contemplating the future of my life.


Before the illness, there were ambitious plans, but nearly a year of chemotherapy put those plans on hold.


Having traversed the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I suddenly felt life so fragile, realizing that "life and death are beyond one's control."


I was reflecting on the hardships endured in half a lifetime - a failed marriage and the invasion of illness. As I plunged into the depths and couldn't see any human figures or sunlight, I couldn't help but ask myself: "Is a busy life worthwhile? Can the dreams pursued be realized? Why did God let me experience the suffering of the world but still leave me behind?"


After nearly a year of rural living, I faced a natural landscape every day, living a life of working at sunrise and resting at sunset. Birdsong, frog calls, the wilderness, grass, trees in the front and backyards, and flowers blooming and withering enriched my soul and gradually strengthened me. When I was facing nature alone again, a sense of "rebirth" arose in my heart.


Several mornings, I stood on the mountaintop, eyes closed, asking God, "Can you accept my request? I want to engage in a service career and learn to find work from my interests."


Before long, a friend encouraged me to engage in jewelry design and introduced me to his friend to be my partner. However, I stumbled into another artistic field from jewelry design—a series of creations inspired by "Embroidered Brocade."


Although I have enjoyed doodling since childhood—I would fill any blank space in a book with drawings, I never dreamed of becoming a painter. After moving from southern Taiwan to the north for school, influenced by artistic friends, I began to learn about collecting artworks, yet I never dared to imagine myself as an artist.


When my first piece was affirmed and collected, I could hardly believe it. My friends encouraged me to give up jewelry trading and focus on creating. Since I never formally studied painting, "Embroidered Brocade," created purely from inspiration and originality, came into being.


At home, there is a creation from 1993 when I lived in Carson City, Nevada. One day, with nothing to do, I used the pigments and materials for making earrings and, in a collage manner, created a Qing Dynasty garment; the patterns and colors were all imagined. When I framed the finished painting in an antique frame, many people thought it was an antique painting from my collection, and I didn't explain it to anyone.


Last October, picking up the unused brushes again, I attempted "Embroidered Brocade" paintings, using red as the base, the clothes in black, white, red, and other colors, completed through tearing, inlaying, and embedding, with a red violin in the middle of the clothes.


This painting was collected by the Californian poet Fang Yuan. He said, "Seeing this painting reminds me of Eileen Chang's novels. The colors are gorgeous, and the composition of brocade hides a violin and scattered musical notes. The colors used in the background of the painting seem dry and gloomy, suddenly touching, reminding people of the sorrow and bitterness of ancient women, evoking a sense of sadness."


Hence, encouraged by many friends, I embarked on such an irreversible path. When the media asked about my painting process and how long it took to complete each piece, I said, "The style of the clothes is based on historical records and texts, but the patterns and colors rely on inspiration. It takes from two weeks to a month or longer to complete a piece."


Growing up in the countryside, living a rural life, watching traditional operas—all these factors sometimes make me reluctant to be bound. Because of this free spirit, my use of colors is considered unrestrained and bold.


Some people asked me, "Why choose ancient costumes?" I didn't deliberately make it the central theme, but studying aroused my interest in history, which might have some influence! I had been writing art and craft reports for Taiwanese women's magazines for several years, collecting much information about them. I once dreamed of comprehensively recording Chinese craftsmanship and art, which was shelved due to going abroad.


Having passed through the lows of life and emerged from the shadow of Death, I've reclaimed a life, much like wanting to "utilize waste and recycle resources." Accompanied by music, I often immerse myself fully into creation, almost reaching the point of forgetting to eat and sleep, often moved to tears by my own works.


Later, the exhibition of "Embroidered Brocade" works at the New Life Gallery can be considered the best testimony of my "new life."


When I met the oncologist at the hospital, he asked only a few simple questions: "How many years have passed? Have you had chemotherapy? What stage?" After I answered them one by one, the doctor held my hand and said, "Congratulations, you have completely recovered. You don't need to see me anymore."


Postscript: One of the works created in 1999 was a Qing Dynasty garment, a three-piece set. I made it with the feeling of putting on clothes one by one. At the time, the director of the Taipei National Museum of History, Huang Guangnan, called this work: although it is a piece of clothing, it is a living piece.

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