Art at Amtrak: Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann Potomac River Shen Series

By East City Art Editorial Team on July 8, 2024
Art at Amtrak: Potomac River Shen Series
Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann, Potomac River Shen Series (2024)
Photo credit: David Plakke

Art at Amtrak, Debra Simon Art Consulting and Morton Fine Art have announced the Potomac River Shen Series (2024), an installation of three new murals by artist Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann at Washington Union Station. A continuation of Amtrak’s celebrated Art at Amtrak public art program, each mural displays slight differences in content and color palette, but together remain united in their representation of a thriving, frothing, flowing world populated by abstracted imagery of botanical and animal life endemic to the Potomac River watershed. Mann creates large-scale paintings and paper installations that examine mythology, identity, and landscape. With the notion of land tied deeply to understandings of cultural and national identity, Mann creates abstract realms that situate within, and negotiate between, Chinese and Western canons of landscape picture making. The Potomac River Shen Series is now on display through fall 2024 at Washington Union Station. Each piece was originally painted on paper and then digitally manipulated to span the length of the Washington Union Station upper wall from Gates A through L.

The series draws together waterlilies, pond lettuce, freshwater mussels, hibiscus, and clovers into images of “cloud rafts,” which are a reference to floating magical islands often portrayed in Buddhist iconography. These elements are woven together into giant garland-scrolls that spawn from the form of a clam located in the center of each mural. The scrolls reference the documentation of historical narratives and mythological treasures that give shape to the past and help inform the future. The central clams depict the freshwater clams endemic to the Potomac River while also referencing the clam monsters in Chinese folklore, called shen, that create mirages of cities, buildings, and entire worlds out of bubbles.

By alluding to mythical shen and “cloud rafts” through the illustration of creatures and botanicals found in Washington DC’s beloved local river, this mural celebrates the magic and majesty of the tiniest denizens of our immediate environment.

A second installation of 22 artists from Art Enables, an art studio and gallery in the District dedicated to amplifying the creative careers of artists with disabilities, is also on view at Washington Union Station.

About Art at Amtrak
Amtrak launched Art at Amtrak at New York Penn Station in June 2022, has expanded to Moynihan Train Hall in Summer 2023 and to Washington Union Station and William H. Gray III 30th Street Station in Fall 2023. Art at Amtrak, the official public art program of Amtrak, presents diverse, unique and memorable art projects to enhance, invigorate and humanize the travel experience at Amtrak stations. The art program reflects and celebrates each region’s creative preeminence by featuring contemporary artists through rotating exhibitions.

Art at Amtrak is curated and produced by Debra Simon Art Consulting. More information about Art at Amtrak and a complete list of artists can be found here.

About the Artist
Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann examines landscape painting, environment, and cultural estrangement by building luxuriant, cinematically scaled paper paintings and installations. These combine romantic, utopian, and immersive sensibilities from both Chinese and Western landscape painting with a lexicon drawn from a personal mythology informed by Mann’s identity as a biracial, second generation Asian American. She is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, and her work has been exhibited at: the Kreeger Museum, Academy Art Museum, Walters Art Museum, American University Museum, Tides Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Rawls Museum, the US consulate in Dubai, UAE, and the US embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. Mann is based in Washington DC and is represented by Morton Fine Art.

[Source: Morton Fine Art press release]