"CHINA NOW" A Traveling Exhibition with the V.M.F.A.

In 2006, Richmond photographer Christopher Winton-Stahle was part of a bilateral exchange program co-sponsored by the Rose Group for Cross-Cultural Understanding and the China Association for International Friendly Contact. The program's aim is to increase American understanding of China and its history, core values, traditions and philosophy. Winton-Stahle returned with more than 3,000 color photographs focusing on the people, the landscape, daily life, and evidence of China's explosive economic growth.

China's emerging status on the world stage and its relationship with the United States are increasingly the subjects of discussion in the 21st century. Traditions are evolving and, in some cases, being consumed by technology, development and the drive for newer, bigger, better. Transforming the mid-20th-century Mao-era architecture into state-of-the-art facilities for a younger, global, tech-savvy generation has become commonplace in most cities in China. Preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing have led to vast municipal projects intended to put China's best foot forward. The result is the replacement of older structures with new "green" buildings that incorporate the latest in ecologically-minded systems.

Amidst this blossoming growth, hazed by a level of pollution that has been referred to as "significantly worse than Los Angeles," more than 1.3 billion Chinese citizens do what their ancestors have done for centuries - endure.

Patricia Buckley Ebrey, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (1996, Cambridge University Press) states that "In every epoch Chinese have made use of the resources they inherited – material, intellectual and institutional – to set goals, respond to new challenges, protect themselves, and advance their interests. Because their actions have a cumulative impact on the resources the next generation inherits, change is inevitable but so are links to the past. This I believe is as true today as ever."

It is within this complex cultural experience that photographer Christopher Winton-Stahle spent five frenetic days of exploration and education. Snippets of his vision make up the exhibition and lead viewers to ponder change, patterns, people and the global interplay of cultures.

"China Now" will be available at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art from September 4th to October 28th, 2007 before it begins a three year tour with the Virginia Museum of Fine Art's partnering museums.

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