Recently, a special series of artworks have attracted the attention of many at an art exhibition in Hangzhou city, capital of east China’s Zhejiang province. No ordinary paintings, they are made by Gao Siji, a 88-year-old grandmother who lives in the city, using kitchen waste such as fish bones and crab legs.
Coming up with the idea while eating fish, she discovered the shape of the fishbone looks similar to the petal of a chrysanthemum and tried to construct the fish bones to resemble the flower. After washing the fish bones, she made them into a chrysanthemum and showed it to an art teacher she met in a university for the elderly.
In 1992, she made the first one themed on “plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo and chrysanthemums,” symbols of nobility, righteousness, modesty and purity that have long been favored by the Chinese literati over thousands of years.
Supported and encouraged by the teacher, Gao has made over 100 artworks in nearly three decades, bringing kitchen waste back to life.
Every time she makes an artwork, she always cleans the materials first, lets them dry, designs and revises again and again until she is satisfied, then glues and colors them. Sometimes, she even makes a special trip to the seafood market to collect some materials.
Gao, once a teacher before she retired, is not working on this alone. She has influenced many and had several “students” –other elderly people who have also taken an interest, giving them lessons in Yangguang community, Wenxin neighborhood, Xihu district in Hangzhou.
During one lesson, she asked them to make an artwork themed on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, as the year 2021, which marks the CPC’s centenary, is drawing near.
Feng Chunxia, one of her students, said that many of the students have great interests and love learning from Gao. “Although we are no longer young, our artworks make us feel younger,” she said, adding that the process of making the artworks nurtures their sentiments.
In 2001, with the support of local community, she established the first community-based university for the elderly in the city. Ever since then, many elderly people have gathered here to continue to explore the beauty and happiness of life.