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World-Renowned Artist Visits Johnson Space Center

“Freedom is not just a painting; it serves as a monument to our fearless pioneers, to our heroes and to the many generations who have pursued, and continue to pursue, their dreams.” Cao Yong

Cao Yong and Public Affairs Director Dan Carpenter
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Cao Yong and Public Affairs Director Dan Carpenter
World-renowned artist Cao Yong visited Johnson Space Center May 9 to donate his painting "Freedom" to NASA. Public Affairs Director Dan Carpenter accepted the painting on behalf of the Agency on May 9.

The painting depicts images of the Statue of Liberty standing tall over soldiers raising the American flag at Iwo Jima, firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero, American presidents on Mount Rushmore and an Astronaut planting an American flag on the moon. “This painting (Freedom) is about the dreams of peace, about the power of determination and, last but not least, about the hope of mankind,” Yong said. Yong was born into hardship in China in 1962. He began painting when he was 11 years old. Yong frequently skipped meals and pawned his clothes to pay for his art supplies. After graduating with a Fine Arts degree from Henan University in China, Yong moved to Tibet to teach. He spent a year living alone in Tibetan caves studying prehistoric paintings. Yong painted a series of his experiences in Tibet, which were displayed in his first one-man show in Beijing in early 1989.

The quick international success of the show alarmed the Chinese authorities and led to a burning of his paintings and Yong’s arrest. Yong and his young fiancée escaped to Japan after an eight-month journey as a fugitive from the Chinese government.

Click for larger imager
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Cao Yong donates Freedom painting to Johnson Space Center
Finally, in 1994, Yong immigrated to the United States and spent his first three years living in New York City before moving to Los Angeles. It was in his home in California that Yong watched the World Trade Center tumble to the ground on September 11, 2001.

“The tragedy of 911 has made a great impact in my life” Yong said. He drove 3,000 miles to New York and while facing the piles of ashes and the lines of mourners at Ground Zero, he said, “I felt a strong feeling developing in my heart informing me there is a mandatory mission that I have to achieve.” This mission ended in the creation of Freedom.

When creating the piece Freedom, Yong said he wanted to deliver a message to people who are encountering difficulties in life. “The unique achievement of mankind landing on moon is the best example, it is what we are proud of,” Yong said.

“When I witnessed on the news about the first man landing on the moon, I was only six years old. I was shocked, and ever since then, the images of Apollo 11, and the astronauts were deeply engraved into my mind,” Yong said.

“In my heart, NASA has become a place that I long to visit because they symbolize an enormous achievement of science and technology. It also exemplified the human spirit of adventure into the limitless universe,” Yong said. “Therefore, when Anderson Art Collection informed me that NASA invited us to visit them, I was so happy, even words cannot explain my emotion. I even left all my duties to visit NASA.”

"It was very obvious that Mr. Yong was an avid supporter of the U.S. Space Program by seeing his enthusiasm as he was taken on a tour of JSC,” Louis Parker said. “Everything that was spoken to him as he viewed JSC facilities was met with the 'wide-eyed' wonder of someone who truly believes in NASA's exploration of outer space."


Lisa Tidwell
Johnson Space Center
42579

 
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Updated: 06/27/2003