Mongolian Sculptor Su Lide: Freedom is a Road with No Return

3/13/20

Los Angeles

Earlier this year in February, there erected a new massive bas-relief sculpture themed in the Tiananmen Massacre in the Liberty Sculpture Park loated in Yermo, a small town in northern Los Angeles. Two artists contributed to the sculpture are: the famous free sculptor Chen Weimin, and Su Lide, a Mongolian sculptor who just arrived in U.S. last year. So, how did Su start his career as a sculptor for freedom?

We are here at the Sculpture Ranch located in Yermo with Mr. Chen and his colleague Su Lide along with several volunteers. They have been working together for more than two months. Mr. Su said it’s been quite an honor working with Mr. Chen. “I’m just happy that so many people are able to come together and collaborate on a great work. It lets others know that there are still Chinese like us doing something meaningful. It’s so rewarding that I’m willing to take the pain and deliver the work.”

Su moved to New York from Beijing last July. Since his departure of China, he had been gathering a great deal of information online regarding the Tiananmen Massacre. Upon learning Mr. Chen’s plan to create a bas-relief work about the Tiananmen Massacre, he immediately joined in. “I did not get to see that many pictures about what happened. Looking at them now makes me feel the pain but more than that is fury.”

Mr. Su added that it was not without hesitation when he decided to leave his hometown, but he doesn’t look back now. “When I talk to my friends back in China, they would tease me like ‘Man, you’ll stay there forever’ indicating that I would never be able to return to China.”

Su Lide graduated from the Central Arts & Crafts Academy, now known as “The Arts Academy of Tshua University”. His artworks were exhibited in numerous museums including the Central Cultural Museum in Hohhot. Life took an abrupt turn when his studio in Beijing was torn down after a 10-year lease had been signed and all the remodeling under way. “My studio was actually torn down twice. By the time I came to U.S. in July, the ‘HuanTie Arts World in Beijing’, as you might still be able to find it on internet these days, received another announcement of eviction within a week. I’m not sure if we are considered part of the so-called ‘lower end population of artists’ that are targeted to be taken out. After I came to United States, I looked up my studio on Google. It’s all gone.”

Mr. Su mentioned that in Beijing, artists like to hang together exchanging ideas and sharing opinions, including those of the current problems with the government. Naturally they become the prick in the eyes of the government and are constantly on the move.

As a Mongolian, Su said that what the Uyghurs are going through now had taken place in Mongolia long time ago. “We were the first ones to be purged. With the ‘Incident of Inner Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party’, the elites in Mongolia were completely wiped out. My uncle was cast in prison for 9 years as anti-revolutionary. After his release, he came to live by my bedside. He was skinny and in poor health. He couldn’t control the bowel movements and soiled the bed often times. More sadly, he spent the rest of his life in the mental institute. I still vividly remember how he suffered.”

During the time his work started on the bas-relief sculpture of the Tiananmen Massacre, Su had to spend 2 months away from his family. Fortunately, his wife had his back and took care of the 3 children in New York.

Mr. Chen Weimin told us that being a “free sculptor” is a hard choice because one has to deal with not only shortage of resources but lack of income. “What we do is essentially non-profit. Lots of work with no returns, or if there is any, it would be when your work is acknowledged by others.”