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 Yu-Ho Tseng  (1924 - )

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Lived/Active: Hawaii / China      Known for: painting-abstract collage landscape forms

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Betty Ecke is primarily known as Yu-Ho Tseng

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Since arriving in Hawaii from Beijing in 1949, Dr. Tseng (who refers to herself as Tseng Yu-Ho, and is also known by her Western name 'Betty Ecke') has been an important part of the art community in Honolulu, where she is associated with all aspects of Asian art. Both an artist and an art historian, she has been a full-time professor of Asian Art History at University of Hawaii, and a consultant at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. While pursuing her own creative American painting, she has published catalogues and books on Chinese art history. From 1977 to 1985 she served as the first Director of Council for Chinese Studies at the University of Hawaii.

Born in 1925, Dr.Tseng (Betty Ecke) married art historian Gustav Ecke (1896-1971) in Beijing in 1945. The couple moved to Hawaii in 1949, where she received her master's degree from the University of Hawaii. She later earned her doctoral degree from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. Dr. Tseng taught at the University of Hawaii and has also been a consultant to the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Her paintings have been in numerous exhibitions, including shows in Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Munich, Zurich, and Paris. She has organized exhibitions of Chinese calligraphy, painting, and folk art, and published books and articles on various aspects of Chinese art. A recipient of many awards, she was recognized as a "Living Treasure of Hawaii" in 1990.

Virginia Wageman, art critic for the "Honolulu Advertiser", (June 11, 2000) writes about the artist's work:.. " Tseng has been working with what she calls the 'dsui hua' ("assembled painting") technique since the mid-1950s, adapting to a modern medium the methods used to mount traditional Chinese scrolls, by which paper and silk are painstakingly assembled. Dsui paintings are similar to paper collages, in which printed or painted paper is cut or torn into shapes and arranged in layers. In dsui paintings, tissue-thin handmade papers are layered one upon another, each layer painted to achieve varying textures and degrees of opacity. With paint, paper and a glue pot, Tseng creates multilayered works characterized by shifting planes and hues and a complexity of textures. Tseng's imagery is derived from that of traditional Chinese painting, in which mountains, river, and other landscape elements are rendered with free brushwork, usually accompanied by poems inscribed in calligraphic characters.

In Tseng's works, the landscape forms and the calligraphic strokes become the building blocks for exquisite abstract images. East and West are merged in Tseng's paintings. Despite having lived in the West for more than 50 years and having befriended such avant-garde pioneers as Man Ray, Max Ernst, and the New York gallery owner Edith Halpert, she has always retained a psychic tie to her homeland, which she left at age 24, in 1949, and which she was unable to revisit until 1972.

Tseng learned calligraphy as a youth in China, where her family was a member of the elite literati class. She attended Furen University in Beijing, studying Western art history under Gustav Ecke, who would later become her husband. Tseng and Ecke were forced to leave China at the time of the Communist takeover.

Ecke was offered a post at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and so Tseng came to Honolulu - at that time a backwater compared with metropolitan Beijing. Ecke died in December 1971.

A month later, Tseng received her doctoral degree from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. (She had earlier received a master's degree from the University of Hawaii.) Ecke has spent considerable time in New York and Paris, and has considered making a move, but her ties to Honolulu are now deep.

Tseng's contributions to the arts in Hawaii are immense, not least of all her teaching of art and art history at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, where she was a full professor until retirement in 1986. The author of several art history books and numerous scholarly articles, Tseng (was in 2000) working on a book about Chinese folk art."

Ecke is a noted philanthropist as well. The Febrary 19th, 2004 issue of the "Honolulu Advertiser" reported plans under way " to build a Shi Wu Tea Lodge at the Lyon Arboretum in Manoa Valley thanks to a $600,000 gift to the University of Hawaii from internationally known Tseng Yuho "Betty" Ecke. The Ecke gift would pay for the structure - to be designed in the style of a Chinese country house with simple furnishings, Chinese folk art and tea implements".


Source:
February 2001 issue of "Asian Arts and Antiques Magazine" to the
website of the University of Hawaii
Honolulu Advertiser newspaper
website of the Denver Art Museum.
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Note from Mark Borthwick:
All over Asia, Chinese and Koreans tend to hyphenate their first names (never their family names) and, in the custom of centuries, place the last name first. Tseng is an old and widespread Chinese family name (like the name Tse which does appear correctly in your index). The spelling uses the old the Wade-Giles system rather than new pinyin system. I assume she kept this traditional practice of placing the last name first when she arrived in Hawaii in the 1950s and made it into a kind of artist's pen name while adopting a separate Western derived name as well.



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