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‘Beautiful and delicate’

Creston:Arts Gallery artist uses art for self-expression

Beautiful and delicate are two words that can describe the art featured in the May gallery show at Creston: Arts Gallery in the restored Creston Depot.

They are also what the artist’s name translates to from Chinese to English.

“I have two names, which is kind of interesting in our family,” said May Ling Chuong. “So, there’s my Chinese Chinese name, which is Zhang Yulian. That one means ‘Lotus’ and I signed [my watercolors] with that name. May Ling is actually my American Chinese name, and it means ‘beautiful and delicate.’ All together I’m a beautiful and delicate lotus. I kind of like the concept.”

She said she has been doing art since she was 5 years old, but became interested in origami, the art of paper folding, when she was 8 years old while watching her cousin fold paper stars at her family’s restaurant, Chuong Gardens.

Chuong is an all-around artist but chose to focus in this show on her thousands of folded paper cranes and watercolor flowers.

“I really concentrated on the paper crane in this show,” Chuong said. “I just love to try new things. I have 13 origami books at home and then the internet is a good source for this. I like to make little paper vases and little origami flowers.”

One of the works on display is composed of dozens of strings of origami cranes, 1,000 cranes in all.

She completed the 1,000 cranes and strung them all together for fun, and said it’s not the first time she has folded so many paper cranes in one setting.

“I was in eighth grade and I was in study hall,” she said. “I had all my homework done and my teacher gave me a pack of sticky notes and said, ‘Fold me a thousand paper cranes.’ I did.”

The idea of one thousand cranes is loosely based on the book “Sadako and a Thousand Cranes.”

“It’s after WWII when they bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Chuong said. “She developed leukemia, and one of the legends is if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, you get to make a wish. She wanted to stay alive and get better. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.”

In addition to the thousands of folded paper cranes on display, Chuong’s show features examples of watercolor flower paintings signed in delicate Chinese calligraphy.

“Origami is what I’m kind of known for and my main focus,” she said, “but this year I started to really like watercolor, especially flowers. I really like to paint flowers, which came from my mom teaching me how to properly write my name in Chinese.”

Chuong said if she doesn’t have art in her life, she’s sure she would go insane. She describes herself as shy and awkward vocally, but finds self-expression easier through art.

Chuong is no stranger to the gallery. Her work has been shown in many of the shows featuring art from Creston Community High School students, and she has had one other independent show. This may be her final show in the space, however, because she is preparing to graduate as valedictorian May 20 from CCHS.

Upon graduation, Chuong has plans to attend Coe College in Cedar Rapids to study art and either business or art history.

“Everyone wants to be a famous artist,” she said, “but, of course, that’s not always the case. I might become a museum curator or something like that. I kind of would like to be an entrepreneur, too. I’m struggling with do I want to do; art history or business. I think if my parents can do it as immigrants, I can do it too with a college degree.”

She said she’s excited to be going to school in a larger community because she’s looking forward to a more diverse environment and meeting and sharing ideas with different types of people.

Guests are invited to meet the artist at 6 p.m. Friday at the Creston: Arts Gallery in the restored Creston Depot.

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