Friday, February 1, 2019

Fei's lions

Yong Fei Guan is a local artist, City of Edmonton Master Composter/Recycler since 2015, and a delightful person, period. My first exchange with her was on a warm October afternoon in 2017, when she was looking for some red wigglers for her vermicomposting efforts and I had a few to spare. We had met briefly once toward the end of her MCR course, but time had passed and I couldn't quite picture the person who was coming to get composting worms.

She texted to announce that she was parked outside my house, so I went out to meet her, but I wasn't sure how to pronounce her name. "Just call me Fei," (Fay) she said, and handed me a small container to fill with worms because her baby had fallen asleep in the car seat on the way.

Remembering what that was like, I took the container to my compost pile to get the worms while she stayed with her wee one. When I came back, we stood on the street and chatted for quite a while, and the little one woke up just in time to give me a heart-melting smile before they went off on their next errand. Busy lady!

I've seen Fei a couple of times since then. One cold evening about a year ago (or is it two?) she had a little well-attended gallery gathering around a children's board book about composting that she was creating. More recently, for Edmonton's 2018 The Works Art & Design Festival, she created Su Jiao Shi, a pair of plastic lions, to commemorate the stone ones that used to guard our city's Harbin Gate before it was removed from near the Chinese Seniors Centre due to LRT construction. Fei wanted to bring more awareness to environmental issues and our world's over-dependence on plastic, much of which is not recycled and which takes hundreds, if not thousands of years to biodegrade.

Su Jiao Shi are made of plastic milk jugs, PVC pipe, chicken wire, and some little toys her children no longer play with form the lions' eyes. Their luxurious manes are quite the collection of six-pack rings, many of which came from the City of Edmonton's ReUse Centre -- definitely a mixed-media artwork. It's taken a few cans of spray paint to keep them colourful, and I have to say they were pretty impressive when I saw them up close. Like the stone lions, they each have a ball in their mouth to touch for good luck.

Fei's lions are residents of City Hall at the moment as part of a celebration of Chinese culture, and last night they were in the spotlight at a reception featuring art, music, Tai Chi, and the delightful Fei herself. I stopped by to see her before the reception, we took some pictures, and I asked her about her next project.

She's thinking big for it -- an eight-foot figure related to this Lunar New Year that will be made of non-recyclable materials. I'm not going to let the cat completely out of the bag -- but I'll be sure to moodle about it in the future. I love bumping into Fei.

In the meantime, if you're in the vicinity of City Hall, be sure to visit Fei's lions, which are showing until Feb 15th. And if you'd like to learn more about Fei, click here for an excellent article from the U of A's Gateway online magazine, or check out her artist profile by clicking here.

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