Artists abroad: Local painters visit China for showcase, Ambassador Baucus visit

Samantha Hill

Two Livingston artists were chosen to attend a showcase with U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus in December, and they traveled to some parts of the country they had never experienced before.

Parks Reece and Joe Fay were given the opportunity because of their involvement in art tours and galleries within China over the last few years. Other Montana artists from Bozeman and in Missoula also attended the event on Dec. 14 in Beijing called the “Biscuit Basin” showcase, named after one of Fay’s Yellowstone lithographs.

Reece and Fay later traveled to a gallery in Shanghai — 188 Art — to showcase some of their artworks with a variety of Chinese artists.

Fay and Reece said it was exciting to visit Beijing because although it was Reece’s fifth time and Fay’s third time there, they had never spent much time being tourists in the area. They were able to visit the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City — an area where emperors once stayed before the onslaught of Communism.

Reece, who began his trip Dec. 7, said that while in Beijing — one of the most polluted cities in the world — he experienced one of the worst smog days the city had seen.

He said he wore a mask much like other Beijingers so as not to inhale the smog, because although wearing a mask wasn’t required, breathing the air “is basically like smoking half a pack of cigarettes.”

On another adventure during their visit, Fay and Reece traveled about 80 miles away from Beijing, hiking of one of the least populated areas of the Great Wall of China.

“Now I know why it wasn’t very popular — it was really steep and difficult,” Fay said, adding that the area was heavily forested and they would be difficult to find if they were to fall off the wall, but that it was incredible to see.

Fay and Reece were both excited for the unique experience of spending time with Baucus.

Reece was able to give him a gift.

“I knew that Max really liked elk, so after I (got) one this fall, I decided to make a big thing of jerky to bring to him,” he said.

Both the men said that they were fascinated to spend time with some of the locals, including the people in the smaller villages.

“We went and visited villages where you could tell they had never seen white people before,” Reece said.

He said during one of his tours in a small village, several people crowded around him while he was painting and clapped at some of his more dramatic brush strokes. Reece was also the subject of many photos, and children would just come up and touch him.

“I have never experienced anything like it,” he laughed.

Reece and Fay expect to travel back to the country within the next year or so for another show at the gallery in Shanghai.

Meanwhile, Chinese artists are expected to visit Livingston and other parts of Montana this summer to showcase some of their work and get a taste of the country, Fay said.