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Fine Arts prof. receives grant to publish new book on Asian art

By Michelle Kim

Section: Arts, Top Stories

October 16, 2014

This year, Dr. Aida Wong, an associate professor of Fine Arts at Brandeis, was awarded with the Theodore and Jane Norman Fund for Faculty Research and Creative Projects. This fund supports faculty at Brandeis who wish to pursue research and creative projects or to help develop their courses. According to the Brandeis website, up to $3,000 is awarded to be used for direct, project-related expenses, such as usage of collections, acquisition of data, services and publication charges. The process for receiving the Norman Fund involves submitting a written application to Dean Susan Birren that outlines the goal and progress of the project as well as those items that would benefit from funding support.

Wong has taught a variety of courses related to Asian art, from general classes to more specialized topics like Buddhist art and arts of the Ming Dynasty. Wong earned her B.A. at the University of Western Ontario and later earned her M.A., Ph.M. and Ph.D. at Columbia University.

“My main area of research is cross-cultural modernism in the contexts of revolution, imperialism and colonialism. Until 15 years ago, few art historians dealt with transnational aesthetics in Asia, and my work has been devoted to demonstrating complex interchange and multilateral influences. Such questions are also introduced in my classes,” she said.

Wong has been honored many times; she was previously granted the American Council of Learned Societies (and NEH) American Research in the Humanities in China Fellowship and the University of Chicago Postdoctoral Fellowship in addition to numerous other honorary positions, grants and fellowships. She has also been awarded the Norman Fund in 2009. She has written on transcultural modernism. Some of her publications include “Parting the Mists: Discovering Japan and the Rise of National-Style Painting in Modern China,” published by the University of Hawaii Press in 2006 and the edited volume “Visualizing Beauty: Gender and Ideology in Modern East Asia,” published by the Hong Kong University Press in 2012.

The Norman Fund supports her book project on Kang Youwei, a calligrapher and art theorist who was the chief leader of the Hundred Days Reform on the night the Qing Dynasty collapsed. Kang attempted to make the Chinese Emperor adopt the Meiji Japanese model of constitutional monarchy. However, the plan faded, and Kang focused on reforming Chinese art with profound, yet little studied, impact on key calligraphers and painters. The fund goes toward the preparation of the manuscript for publication, such as professional proofreading and acquisition of image copyrights from international museums and private art collections (with part-time help from a research assistant who happens to be a multilingual Brandeis graduate.)

“Art history books with color reproductions are expensive to produce. Part of the fund will also be used as subvention to the publisher,” explained Wong. “Besides the inherent significance of the topic, I am using this opportunity to challenge boundaries between political history and art history, calligraphy and painting, and theory and practice. This book also represents the culmination of five years of research and writing.”

Wong’s book is currently under contract with the international publishing company Brill, which is based in Leiden, Boston and Tokyo and is starting a new series on Modern Chinese Art.

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