No. 41. Tiananmen Square

As noted in last week’s post, the people of China spent a week celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The founding of the People’s Republic was declared on October 1, 1949, in Tienanmen Square. It is one of the ten largest in the world. (There are three larger city squares in China.) I was there on the final day of the celebration as workers began tearing down the special seating put up for dignitaries to view the official speechifying, military parade, and festive parade.

The square was still mobbed by throngs of Chinese tourists who came out to mark the patriotic holiday. Here is a small sampling of Photos. The Square was originally constructed in 1651, but quadrupled in size during the 1950s. The Great Hall of the People on one side is the parliament building where nearly the 3,000 legislators meet once a year for 10 to 14 days. A standing committee of around 170 is in permanent session and does most of the real work. Members of the National People’s Congress are not directly elected by popular vote, rather by a tiered representative system that, as it was explained to us, smacks of a meritocratic selection process. The NPC is often described as a rubber-stamping body for decisions reached by the Standing Committee and the Communist Party. In recent years several measures proposed by those bodies have been rejected, showing signs of somewhat greater independence.

The building also houses a banquet room, which can host 5,000 people. It was constructed in eight months. The monument to Heros of the People in front took much longer to construct as there were lengthy and heated debates about its design to assure Feng Sui.

Our Chinese guide did make note of the site of the June 4th (1989) Massacre in the square. He said that today there is greater freedom of speech. The greatest limitations are on separatist movements. China was Balkanized during the 19th Century by European invaders; the (as yet incomplete) reunification of China is viewed as the major accomplishment. Around 85 different ethnic groups live in China. I leave to another day a fuller discussion of what might be euphemistically called “the finer points” of democratic rights, bureaucratic abuse, and national unity.

Jay M. Ressler

Jay Ressler Composite Photography, Encaustic Art, and Oil Painting He is an outstanding location photographer and painter, with an eye that can capture the soul of a Havana back street as beautifully as the sip of a hungry hummingbird, often with compelling black and white images. Jay Ressler is best known for artistic expression that lives in layers between opposites. “I like to explore boundaries,” he explains. “Boundaries between consciousness and the unconscious, between reality and imagination, between certainty and skepticism.” He does this by compositing his own photography in multiple layers to produce stunningly original, interleaved images. Using Photoshop, other image manipulation software and a variety of digital effects, he paints one photographic layer on top of another. He takes advantage of textures he's captured along with an array of processes for manipulating light, contrast, and color to tell the story. “Distorting and reinterpreting the literal 'machine moments' captured by the camera is as old as the art of photography,” he insists. Jay occasionally extends his multi-layered approach to encaustic mixed media creations. Based on ancient techniques, the process begins with cooking his own recipes of beeswax and damar resin and applying this medium between the layers of photographic images, along with various pigmented compounds and materials to add color, texture and expression. Either way, the results are riveting. The viewer is drawn into an unfolding, dreamlike scene that might be heart-warming, haunting, gritty, poignant or magical. Sometimes, within the various layers, all of the above. The award-winning photographer/artist has many dimensions himself. He studied advanced digital photography at Pittsburgh Filmmakers and advanced encaustic techniques with leading instructors in the field. He worked as an underground coal miner, steelworker, machinist, labor and civil rights activist, copywriter and commercial printer. He has a BS in Psychology from Albright College.

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