Internationally acclaimed artist and Hot Springs resident Longhua Xu’s new exhibit captures the heart and soul of the Spa City.
By Rebekah Hall | Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
The Soul of Arkansas exhibit will showcase the inspiration Longhua Xu finds throughout Hot Springs. “For me, I find beauty in the people around me,” he reflects. “People who share, people who care for each other – that’s the beauty, and that’s why I’m trying to record it through my paintings.”
Longhua has been resident of the Spa City for 30 years. He emigrated from China, where he taught Fine Art in the Architecture Department at the University of Shanghai. His signature 1992 sculpture Mother Nature greets guests at the crossroads of the Historic Hot Springs Downtown District.
Longhua’s large-scale paintings and sculptures are his way of sharing the story of his community. “The artist is different than the writer,” Longhua explains. “People writing the story use letters to write the story, or the history of what’s happening. But as a visual artist, I’m using my brush and my chisels to represent the culture and the people and the spirit here.”
Visit Hot Springs Cultural Affairs Manager Mary Zunick is excited about this opportunity to feature Longhua’s art in the Hot Springs Convention Center. “It’s a tremendous honor,” Mary emphasizes. “It’s great to be able to highlight an artist who lives and works here in our community and show him the appreciation he so greatly deserves.”
Mary, an Arkansas native, explains that Longhua is able to see and capture Arkansas and its residents in a unique way. “He shows us the beauty that we sometimes don’t see in ourselves,” she notes. “When you look back at the masters from hundreds of years ago, you see a depiction of what life was like back then in that place. These paintings capture life at this time and in this place as it actually is, and finds beauty in it.”
Longhua also serves on the Hot Springs Historic District Commission. He emphasizes that as a relatively young country, it’s important to preserve the rich history of the Hot Springs community. “History is very important to remember because if we know where we come from, we know where we go,” he explains. “Which is why to me as an artist and an architecture teacher, it’s important to save all the history possible.”
Mary encourages visitors and residents to experience the exhibit and witness Longhua’s unique perspective and artistry. “It’s such a precious gift that Longhua has given Hot Springs, his adopted hometown, and Arkansas,” she explains. “I think it is important for our children and people of all ages to look at these paintings capturing the soul of the people and not just their outward appearance.”
For Longhua, his paintings reflect the kindness and compassion of Hot Springs. “The family, values and friendship of the community are more important than anything else, and that’s what inspires me the most,” he explains. “It really doesn’t matter what style clothes you wear or what color you are – the people take care of each other, and that’s very important.”