Window to Your Heart
By Kalley Chen
Developing a long-lasting friendship with Zhao Xiuhuan has been a precious gift in my life.
In 1993, I met Zhao and other artist friends at a party I held at my California residence.  Fortunately, Zhao and I did not pass up on this opportunity to further get to know one another — we began a strong friendship, which later developed into her becoming my mentor as I began my journey into the world of art.
I appreciate music and art, yet Zhao recognized that I had no serious talent to become an artist, so she never took my request to become her student seriously. Instead, she found time to educate me on the arts while we made dumplings together in the kitchen or while we cared for the flowers in her garden.  
For Zhao, painting is like breathing.  She has no time to practice zen, yet the principles of zen can be found in her creations. She creates artwork from sunrise to sunset, seemingly without rest, while walking, sitting, talking and meditating. During the 15 years in which I have cultivated a close bond with Ms. Zhao, I have learned how to better appreciate art — the meaning and beauty.
Art is the creation of life and life originates from the soul. The healing process of a heart that has endured trauma creates a beautiful soul. The color of life can be found everywhere whether it is one’s passion for art, forgiveness, tolerance, or, even, dreams to be chased. In her artwork, peace and love come through a tornado of melancholy and loneliness. 
The seed of talent can be inherited, but life experiences are what make it grow. In Zhao’s eyes, a blade of grass or a tadpole are all precious.  In her pieces, she treats every flower, bird, frog, beetle, dragonfly, butterfly and fish equally. Once becoming an element in her artwork, the flowers and grass will never wither and dying reed leaves and lotus petals begin their lives anew. 
One of Zhao’s artistic skills is her ability to allow the supporting characters to assume lead roles. The long leaves of a reed are commonly found in front of lotus blossoms.  Even dandelions are found confidently presented in front of an orchestra performance of lilies. As I am a frequent visitor to Ms. Zhao’s residence, I had the privilege to witness the moment these dandelions’ appearance in one of her pieces. I felt disappointed when I learned that the specific piece had been acquired. Soon afterwards, I realized I should not be unhappy. The nature of my friendship with Zhao meant sharing her creativity and her emotions.  Sharing her joy is an important aspect of our friendship.
The soul of an artwork lies between reality and emptiness; Creativity lies between pain and joy.  
When I encounter difficulty in my life, Zhao’s life wisdom, like her brush, always opens up the window into my soul. When I was mourning the loss of my father, she dried my tears and washed away my sorrow by helping me focus on those who were still alive. I came to recognize that whenever a window closes, another one opens. I see the continuation of life in the dry lotus pistil and petals. In her work, “Endless Love”, the intertwined stems and leaves of a carnation are a perfect reflection of the love and care of a mother — beautifully representing the unbreakable bond between mother and child. Through her artwork, I am continually exposed to and gain a more profound understanding of life. 
I believe that everything can find its way into eternity and that the soul will not die with the body. Once feelings are transferred to an artwork, the artwork will possess its own soul. Every artwork is a continuation of Zhao’s life. Those who are touched by her artwork will better understand their own soul. It is in a true masterpiece that one finds this heart-to-heart communication and reflection in addition to the abundant visual pleasure.

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