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Home / Life! / Art / Art space in San Gabriel, The Scholart Selection, opens with Pasadena artist Cissy Li show

Art space in San Gabriel, The Scholart Selection, opens with Pasadena artist Cissy Li show

by May Ruiz
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The Scholart Selection, an art space located at the San Gabriel Mission District, held its inaugural show from Nov. 18 to 20 – in time for the holiday shopping season – with an exhibition and sale of hats, glassware, and ceramic items made by Pasadena artist Cissy Li. Also featured were vintage costume jewelry from the showroom owner’s private collection.

A former haute couture runway model, Li graced the catwalk for Europe’s renowned fashion houses. She followed that illustrious career with yet another artistic endeavor – artisanal milliner (read related article here) – creating bespoke headwear for friends. Then she expanded into making glass and ceramic art ware, which she displayed at her spring show this year (read my article here).

Plates with an over glaze of famous oil paintings and 22K gold band | Photo by May S. Ruiz / Beacon Media News

According to Li, she wasn’t asked to make anything special for Scholart Selection’s maiden event. She says, “Cindy [the art space’s founder] trusted me to come up with something and told me not to work too hard; she reassured me that we had enough items to show. So I made 16 plates for the gallery opening – they are one layer of clear glass with an over glaze of famous oil paintings and 22K gold band.”

That confidence in Li’s ability is high praise from someone she hasn’t known very long. She discloses that they met through a friend they both know. “I then invited Cindy to my friend Yenfu Guo’s exhibition called GAME at Seasons LA. After some lengthy and wonderful conversations, we became friends. I invited her to my workshop to show her how to make glass art work. She was very interested and, maybe impressed, so she asked me to be her new art space’s first guest artist. I was so thrilled!”

Cissy Li (at left) and Cindy Wang (right) | Photo by Lingxue Hao / The Scholart Selection

It isn’t the first time that Li has partnered with a gallery and she absolutely enjoys the experience. She enthuses, “This is a wonderful way to show people your ability! And I had a great time working with Cindy. I learned so much from her – she is so smart and hands-on – and I would love to collaborate with her again!

Li’s recollection about how they became acquainted is echoed by Cindy Wang, Scholart Selection’s founder, who graciously speaks with us during the showroom’s opening. Scholart’s Space Manager Dodonna Jen acts as interpreter to facilitate the interview.

Wang relates, “We met at a friend’s party about six months ago and we hit it off. I’ve met a lot of artists in my life and I felt I connected with Cissy as one artist to another. I saw her work and how passionate she is about her art. I also admire how meticulous she is in keeping her workshop neat and organized.”

The decision to ask Li to be her first guest artist wasn’t an impulse but a deliberate choice. Wang explains, “Cissy is a dear friend of mine and I have a great understanding of her creative process. Since our opening exhibition is a three-day event amidst the holidays, the hand-crafted hats, ceramics, and glassware with their beautiful colors are very fitting to share with everyone during the Christmas season. I truly commend Cissy for her dedication and hard work and all the hours she puts in to perfect each and every piece of her art.”

Vintage costume jewelry and hats | Photo by Lingxue Hao / The Scholart Selection

Vintage costume jewelry pieces accompanied the magnificent Cissy Li creations. They were from Wang’s private collection gathered from her travels in Europe and were available for purchase. However, the cameos were only on display because she’s loathed to part with them. She states, “There’s so much history and stories behind the cameos and I’m not ready to give them up just yet.” Perhaps one day.

While at first glance, the vintage jewelry is reminiscent of Old Hollywood glamour, Wang didn’t necessarily pick from that particular era, fashion, or style. She sees the value of the costume jewelry based on their beauty, quality, and workmanship.

Cameos in Cindy Wang’s collection | Photo by May S. Ruiz / Beacon Media News

Wang reiterates, “That’s why I call the space Scholart Selection – the art pieces we exhibit, from jewelry to ceramics, have been selected to reflect the best of artists’ work. What I’m sharing with people are what I personally picked, not random items.”

Because she was born and raised in Beijing – which has a long and storied art and culture history – Wang was drawn to the arts early on. She reveals, “I majored in interior design and also studied advertising at university. After graduating, I started a media company. My husband and I have an extensive range of art collections, including traditional Chinese ceramics, calligraphy and paintings; Japanese wood-block art; and numerous antique and vintage cameos. The Scholart Selection is not my first art space. I’ve owned an antique shop for several years in Beijing that showcases all kinds of art.”

“When I’m not working on an exhibition, I enjoy creating content for my art channel, as well as traveling to various countries to visit local galleries and artists’ studios or even antique shops,” adds Wang. “I always believe that the best way to learn is to see and experience.”

Wang had been living in the United States for three years when she founded the company in 2012 as a channel for art. She originally called it The Scholar but eventually renamed it Scholart (a portmanteau for scholar and art) Selection. It then became obvious that she needed a space for her to realize her desire to share the knowledge she gained and learned through the years.

While she is an Arcadia resident, she chose to open her showroom in San Gabriel. She says, “The San Gabriel Mission area is a historical landmark and when I saw it, I knew it was the perfect place for an art space!”

Cindy Wang (at left) and Dodonna Jen (right) | Photo by Lingxue Hao / The Scholart Selection

Discovering the perfect space to open its doors to the public took some time and doing, though. Dodonna Jen explains, “Cindy found this space in September last year and there had been a lot of back and forth with the landlord and property manager. We leased the spot in February then went through extensive planning and renovations. All the renovations were completed in August so we literally just moved in.”

And Wang and her team hit the ground running. After Li’s show, Scholart Selection will welcome in December the next artist – A Japanese American artist who will share his experience growing up in Los Angeles through his artwork.  

“Our current plan is to hold eight to ten exhibitions for 2023,” Wang divulges. “We are now lining up both local and international artists. Our regular exhibitions run about a month long while smaller shows and pop-up events go on for about a few days.

“Whatever the scale of the exhibition, The Scholart Selection always encourages everyone to walk into the art space and feel the spectacular visual gratification that makes you want to keep coming back to experience art in person, as well as relax, muse, and have a good time,” asserts Wang.

Determining whom to invite to exhibit their artwork at Scholart Selection involves analyzing the artist’s oeuvre. Wang declares, “First of all, when we look into an artist, it’s not only my personal understanding of them but also our entire team’s evaluation. We see their artwork, the style and the story that they wish to tell. Of course, the initiative for us to work with an artist is the artist’s perception, with sensitivity to the current culture and society. The process of collaborating with artists and selecting the artworks is always the most fun part. Working with artists always brings me into contact with a wealth of outlook on the world.”

Beautiful glassware in striking colors | Photo by Lingxue Hao / The Scholart Selection

“We are not limited to a certain art form, because art has no boundaries,” Wang clarifies. “This is also the reason why The Scholart Selection does not categorize itself as a gallery but, instead, as an art space. We welcome various art forms, such as movies, music, photography, and different ways of artistic expression. We would love to devote ourselves to creating opportunities for talented artists.”

That Wang asked Cissy Li as their inaugural artist demonstrates her and Scholart Selection’s commitment to that mission, along with showcasing only the best in their field. And the reception from guests did not disappoint.

“We put in a lot of time and effort for this event – from decorating to designing and from invitations to coordination.” Wang concludes, “We wanted to give our guests a welcoming and warm experience. It was definitely successful; we were overwhelmed!”

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Wang and Li created an event people enjoyed going to because they curated pieces to mirror their kindred spirit and passion for art. The exhibition set the benchmark for Scholart Selection’s upcoming shows. It’s a tough act to follow, but Wang is sure to invite only consummate professionals like her who can top that feat time and time again.        

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