“The spirit and soul of Mongolia came to life through its art. The Art in Embassies Artist Exchange experience has enlightened and renewed purpose in expressing my ideas with greater clarity. Being recognized by AIE through the exhibition and exchange program is an honor that has bolstered my confidence and enthusiasm as well as inspired and challenged me as a professional visual artist.”-Jo Fleming
Artist Jo Fleming traveled to Ulaanbaatar in October of 2014, to participate in an Artist Exchange, coordinated and organized by Art in Embassies and U.S. Embassy Mongolia. The program offered her an opportunity to meet with many fellow artists and students, as well as administrators, educators and art associations in Ulaanbaatar, and to see a remote and magical city and country at a point of massive population shift, cultural change and modernization.
On her first day, the artist traveled to the countryside with three Mongolian artists, Khongorzul, Shatarsaikhan and Tugs-oyun. During this trip, Jo and her colleagues gathered natural materials on the Steppe for her various workshops that were scheduled for later that week. One of Jo’s paintings included in the exhibition Light on Landscape at American Ambassador Campbell‘s residence is called Ozone Layer. It is a visual interpretation of the artist’s concern regarding ozone depletion. Having been raised in Southwestern Virginia, amongst a family and community of coal miners, the artist found meaningful connections in Mongolia. “During my exchange, I discovered that climate change, pollution and land preservation are equally important challenges to Mongolia and the U.S. I gained a broader view of the global nature of responsibility and actions required to reduce human impact on the environment.”
A busy itinerary introduced Jo into the Mongolian visual arts scene, its vibrant, creative and committed contemporary artists and arts leadership, and allowed her to witness Mongolia’s deep and complex cultural heritage. During the artist’s presentations and visits, ranging from her workshop at the Mongen Magnet School for the Arts (K-12), through her talks, demonstrations and slide presentations at the main art school and university (School of Art, Arts and Culture University) as well as meetings with professional creative artists in their working studios (Union of Mongolian Artists and the Red Ger Gallery) provided a lively interchange of ideas. A private visit to the Ger District allowed Jo to meet with artist T. Enkhbold, who has been chosen to represent Mongolia at its first pavilion at the Venice Biennial in 2015. Through her presentations and discussions with local artists, students, gallery owners and critics, Fleming shared the ways in which she as an American contemporary artist can draw attention to social issues, including environmental protection. The AIE Artist Exchange to Mongolia has allowed Jo “… to participate in a dialogue through sharing my artwork and its focus – the beauty and vulnerability of the Earth’s environment and of its preservation.”