May 23, 2016 - December 7, 2016
Philadelphia artist Hua Hua Zhang is a classically trained performer and puppet artist. Born in Beijing, she performed for 20 years with the China Puppet Arts Troupe and received numerous awards from the Ministry of Culture of The People’s Republic of China. In 1996, Zhang came to the United States to study puppet arts at the University of Connecticut.
For more than 40 years, Zhang has been devoted to the wide-ranging art form of puppetry. She has said that “as a puppet artist, I believe that puppetry breaks through language barriers.” Her unique artistry explores puppetry as sculpture and performance. As the founder of the Philadelphia-based performance group Visual Expression, Zhang’s company encompasses multiple art forms including theater, dance, visual art, and music that are influenced by both Eastern and Western cultures. Her original stage productions include Dream of Land, Two Hands, Monkey King & the Adventure of the Golden Bells, and Butterfly Dreams – awarded for best creativity at the UNIMA Congress & World Puppet Festival, China, 2012.
Hua Hua Zhang is also an educator and guest artist who teaches wide-ranging workshops including Chinese Puppet Performance, Chinese Folk Art, and Shadow Mask Theater. Her goal is to share her love for Chinese culture and puppet arts with students of all ages, from elementary school to college.
Zhang has also created her own shadow mask theaters and performances. The Chinese folk art of shadow puppetry is ancient. The puppets, masks, and scenery props are made of paper and perform behind a rear-illuminated white curtain. Their shadows are projected onto the cloth and seen by the viewers as simple, yet magical shapes.
Here, Zhang’s installation The Dragon Boat Dream is a behind-the-scene view of shadow puppetry. The story portrays one of Zhang’s dreams about a dragon boat that takes her around the world over the ocean, mountains, and clouds. Throughout her journey, she meets people and animals from many villages while children, who carry the boat, perform a dragon dance.