From left to right, Charity Armstead, Sandy Brim, Andrea Birch and Kasie Alt laugh during the opening reception for "Expanded Geographies," featuring artwork by Ying Li at the Simmons Visual Arts Center Sellers Gallery. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Gainesville Campus Holds Landscape Artist Gallery Reception

Sep 15, 2017
Kristen Bowman
Artist Ying Li poses for a portrait at Haverford (Penn.) College, where she is professor and chair of fine arts.
Artist Ying Li poses for a portrait at Haverford (Penn.) College, where she is professor and chair of fine arts.

The Brenau University Gainesville campus hosted a gallery reception from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, celebrating the opening of Ying Li’s exhibit “Expanded Geographies” in the Simmons Visual Arts Center’s Sellars Gallery.

Li, a landscape artist known for her tough textures and intense colors, captures experiences with place and time in her gestural paintings, and this exhibit features landscapes from every corner of the country and the world, from Colorado to New York to Switzerland, and the trees and oceans in between.

“I am basically a landscape painter, and I travel to paint,” Li said. “I get my motif and inspiration from traveling and from the character and people of different places. Each place has its own palette and texture and temperature. Finding that is what I do.”

Born in Beijing, China, Li graduated in 1977 from Anhui Teachers University, now known as Anhui Normal University, where she also taught from 1977-83. She immigrated to the United States in 1983 and received a Master of Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design, New York in 1987. Today, she is professor and chair of fine arts at Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 2016, Li held a gallery show at Haverford titled “Geographies,” featuring some of the landscapes in the current show. Working with Brenau Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings, she has taken that show and “expanded it.”

“The paintings in this show are all from different places in different times, but some I go back and revisit,” Li explained. “The chance to revisit and place the same motif again and again really allows me to dig into subject matter more deeply and find variations.”

Li’s goal is to capture nature, in both its toughness and vulnerability and transmit all of its energy to the canvas, she said. She has interest and training in Chinese painting and calligraphy, and she uses intense colors, earthy textures and calligraphic lines in her work.

“Ying Li’s paintings are complex, energetic and intimate,” said Rawlings. “She invites viewers to experience her own personal geographies through rich color, texture and calligraphic line. ‘Expanded Geographies’ brings together a series of works that embody Li’s desire to capture the mood of landscape through heavily impastoed surfaces. Li is extremely generous with her time and her talent, and it is a pleasure to be sharing her work with the community.”

Li was first introduced to Brenau while working as an artist in residence on Great Cranberry Island, Maine.

“I have been at the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation in Maine a few times as the artist in residence,” Li said. “Nichole went there, as well as Brenau President Ed Schrader and a number of board members. I met some of them there, and they saw my work and visited my studio at the residence.”

Brenau and the New York-based Heliker-LaHotan Foundation recently concluded a formal agreement for the foundation to donate all of its assets to the university. These include its archive of more than 2,000 artworks, plus its buildings and land on Great Cranberry Island in Maine, with an estimated valuation of about $3 million. In exchange, Brenau commits to establish the Heliker-LaHotan Institute of Art at Brenau University.

The agreement is subject to approval by the office of the New York State Attorney General, which oversees charitable and nonprofit organizations based in that state and distribution of their assets.

Li credited Patricia Bailey, executive director, treasurer and a founding trustee of the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation, for making the introductions between she and Schrader.

It is merely a “small world” coincidence that Brenau has significant partnership agreements with her alma mater in China and two other institutions in her native Anhui Province that bring dozens of Chinese students each year to study on the small Brenau campus in the exurbs of Atlanta.

“When I was at the foundation and he visited Great Cranberry Island, Ed and I also talked about Brenau University and its partnerships to bring Chinese students to Brenau,” said Li. These partnerships include several with Anhui Normal University, which currently has 44 students taking classes on Brenau’s Gainesville campus. When Li visits for her reception Sept. 14, she plans to meet with the Chinese students who attended her alma mater and former workplace.

“I know the school there very well, though it has of course changed in many ways over the years,” she said. “I think I can give another connection to these new students at Brenau, for them to see my work.”

Li was originally scheduled to hold an artist talk at the Brenau gallery reception, but travel complications due to Hurricane Irma canceled her visit. She is planning a later trip to the university instead.

“Expanded Geographies” runs through Nov. 16. For more information call +1-770-534-6263 or visit