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Cunxin Li: Mao’s Last Dancer by Spectator Jonze

Cunxin Li: Mao's Last Dancer

Spectator Jonze

About the artist

Spectator Jonze is the moniker of Deena Lynch, a young Brisbane artist who works in music and the visual arts. Lynch was born in Yokohama, Japan. She migrated to Australia as a child under less than certain circumstances and had a difficult childhood, which later played out in her work. Lynch uses art and music as an outlet of expression, and has won a number of awards. Jonze’s latest single, the ethereal-pop “Beijing Baby,” is about those who hide behind their privilege, but also nods to Deena’s multicultural roots. Each of her projects has its unique identities, but share a common thread of confronting shame and taboos.  Explains Lynch: “Everything I do stems from the need for dialogue – Jaguar being an internal dialogue with my subconscious, Spectator being an external dialogue with others on mental health and the mind and Dusky being a dialogue with the body.”  In their own way, each is a collaboration, be it literal or metaphoric. Her mission is simple: “I want people to feel. And I want them to think,” she says. 

About the sitter

Li Cunxin’s peasant life in Chairman Mao’s communist China changed dramatically when, at the age of eleven, he was chosen by Madame Mao’s cultural advisers to become a student at the Beijing Dance Academy. After a summer school in America, he defected to the West and became a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet. Li become one of the best male dancers in the world. He is now Artistic Director with Queensland Ballet. Li’s autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer, has received numerous accolades including the Australian Book of the Year Award and has been published around the world. Lynch says: “Even as a child, I drew parallels between his impoverished background, unfortunate circumstances and fight for passion and freedom. The pattern was a deliberate choice to portray his relentless practise and commitment to his art. It serves to highlight that strength is in time and repetition, that there is a beauty in the bigger picture and that of course, hard work always pays off.  Although, I purposefully drew this portrait of Li as a child as a nod to the inspiration he brought to me at the same age, I hope everyone at any age can take away the message of courage and perseverance that he has displayed throughout his life.”