Lawrence artist’s waterfall-inspired work on display in Italy at Royal Palace of Milan

photo by: Palazzo Reale Milano

Lawrence artist Hong Zhang's piece "Fall" is on display at the Milan Royal Palace in Italy until Oct. 11.

A Lawrence resident is one of six Chinese artists whose work is currently on display at the Royal Palace of Milan in Italy.

Hong Zhang, who moved to America in 1996 and has been in Lawrence since 2004, created a piece called “Fall” for the exhibition at the Palazzo Reale Milano. It is displayed in what was previously a prince’s bedroom and spans from the top of the room out toward the four corners.

While it looks like “Fall” consists of four pieces, each one is double-sided, meaning there are actually eight, Zhang said. Each of the pieces is 30 feet long and 5 feet wide.

On the underside of “Fall,” Zhang painted in white ink on black fabric a poem from Li Bai, a Tang Dynasty writer. The poem, which Zhang called “very romantic,” is about a waterfall and how it can be viewed from different angles. Zhang’s piece, too, can be viewed from different angles in the room. Zhang described “Fall” as similar to a sculpture in that regard.

The other side of the installation — the one that faces outward — is a waterfall of hair, created with black ink on white fabric. Zhang is known for her hair-inspired artwork and has been working with hair as a theme for 20 years. Gradually, her hair-inspired art has come to represent natural elements, such as wheat fields, tornadoes and, in this case, water.

photo by: Aaron Paden

Hong Zhang is pictured in the Lawrence Arts Center in March 2020 on one of her pieces for “Fall.”

Zhang said the use of black and white in “Fall” implies the cycle of night and day, the dualism of yin and yang and the natural change of one’s hair with age from colored to white.

The exhibition as a whole, which is called “Out of the Blue, A Calligraphic Journey through Alcantara,” has been open to the public since Sept. 9 and will end on Oct. 11. The participating artists were asked to integrate ancient practices with modern material by incorporating calligraphy and using the Italian-made Alcantara fabric.


Zhang, who typically uses rice paper for her pieces, said she enjoyed working with Alcantara, as it was more flexible and allowed her to shape her piece into a specific form. It was her first time working with the fabric, a synthetic textile that is frequently used in car interiors.

“Fall” took Zhang six months to make. She rented a space within SeedCo Studios in East Lawrence because of the space’s high ceilings. Once she finished, her pieces were shipped to Milan. Zhang is unable to see the exhibit in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. More photos of Zhang’s piece, as well as others in the exhibition, can be viewed online at

photo by: Aaron Paden

Hong Zhang paints calligraphy for her piece “Fall” in March 2020 at SeedCo Studios in East Lawrence.


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