Painting Venice in China

With Halloween preparations, an especially persistent head cold, and another large editorial project to occupy my time, I haven't had the chance to write much lately. Paychecks, however, occasionally take precedence over more creative pursuits. At least subway rides to and from Manhattan give me the chance to do a little reading for pleasure.

Earlier this week I finished a fascinating article by one of my favorite travel writers: Peter Hessler. Since reading River Town, his sensitive account of life in the small Chinese city of Fuling, I have avidly followed his reporting for National Geographic and The New Yorker. His most recent dispatch, entitled "Chinese Barbizon," appeared in the October 26th issue of the magazine and addressed globalization from the point of view of several resourceful, opportunistic laborers in Zhejiang Province. One ambitious young woman and her boyfriend earn about $1,000 a month as commissioned painters—not a bad wage in a rural area where artists live rent free for the first year.

The piece is full of pithy observations and sharp insight, but unfortunately, the online version is only available to subscribers. A brief audio slide show related to the story and narrated by Hessler delves into the business of selling cheap oil paintings to foreign buyers.

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