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Muralist honored in New Jersey

By Chang Jun in San Francisco (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-06-17 10:44

Chinese-American artist Ken Jan Woo recognized for giving new life to Medieval style of church art

Of the long list of awards and nominations he's received for his artistic endeavors, Chinese-American painter Ken Jan Woo believes the Artist Achievement Award he got on June 11 from Union City, New Jersey, is the most special.

Presented every summer, the Union City Artist Awards honor the most talented and dedicated artists from all disciplines who have contributed to the local artistic fabric, according to the organizers.

Only a five-minute drive to downtown Manhattan, Union City is a place many world renowned actors, musicians, artists and Broadway celebrities call home.

Muralist honored in New Jersey

Chinese-American painter Ken Jan Woo works on the St Crysostom panel at the Church of Our Savior in New York City. photos provided to china daily

"This award is very special to the art world in New York," Woo said, adding the event is a celebration of the many contributions that artists have made and continue to make to the local culture.

"It was based on my accumulated work and contributions to the community," he said. "I've been in Union City for 10 years. This award was a big honor for me because I am based in Union City. I am proud to be recognized in the city where I work."

Among his many accomplishments, Woo's involvement as a muralist in the project at the Church of Our Savior at Park Avenue and 38th Street in New York City, completed in 2009, won him much recognition, including the Best Renovation of the Year and a Gold Leaf Award.

"The Artist Achievement Award was primarily for the work done at the church," said Woo.

After winning the bid on the church project among seven international artists, Woo used a traditional process - wood treated with animal glue, 10 coatings of gesso, a coat of red clay, then gilding and paint of oil tempera - to produce seven devotional icons highlighted by a 24-foot-tall Byzantine image of Christ.

 Muralist honored in New Jersey

Ken Jan Woo poses for a picture with Lucio Fernandez, commissioner of public affairs, after receiving the Artist Achievement Award on June 11 from Union City, New Jersey.

"I like public works," Woo said, "you're not cooped up painting every day in isolation."

The three-phase project took six years to complete and was funded by the Vatican, the church and private donations. The installation of Woo's large-scale paintings required scaffolding, electric lifts and other high-tech equipment.

A teacher at Berkeley College in New York, Woo was commissioned to paint Pope John Paul II's coronation portrait and had his work previewed last June at New York University's Catholic Center.

"I am currently working on many murals for the Toronto Oratory Church in Toronto Canada. This project will include eight large murals all with 23-karat gold gilding," Woo said, adding that many of his commissioned projects come from word of mouth.

Born in Shanghai to an artist mother, Woo moved to the US when he was four. He studied art in Florence, Italy, in 1995 and continued in master's programs at the New York of Academy of Art and Central Academy of Art in Beijing from 2002 to 2004.

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