Delaware County puppet artist creating original work for all ages to enjoy

Thursday, May 9, 2024
Delco puppet artist creating original work for all ages to enjoy
If you think puppets are just for kids, there is a local Chinese American artist whose work will have you thinking otherwise.If you think puppets are just for kids, local Chinese American artist Hua Hua Zhang's work will have you thinking otherwise.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Hua Hua Zhang is on the cutting edge of contemporary puppetry as the founder and artistic director of her company called Visual Expressions.

"I am a puppet artist," says Zhang.

She says she is creating a "new style" of puppet and when she performs, everything she feels in her heart is transferred into the puppet.

Zhang started training in the arts at age 14 in her homeland of China.

"You have to go to school and study theater," she says.

At 17, she dedicated herself to puppet performance. She says it's like being an actor, because when you present with the puppet it's "stylized performing."

"You're part of show," she says.

Zhang spent 20 years touring with the China Puppet Art Company.

"I always wanted to be artist, even though I'm a performer," she says.

She came to the U.S. in 2000 to study puppet making and design.

"Creating and sculpting, making story, that's my passion," she says.

Zhang says it's also important to her to share Chinese culture with America through her art. Now, she makes original works with her longtime colleague, Adam Danoff, who works as the production manager for Visual Expressions.

"We generally do one or two new pieces a year," says Danoff.

Zhang takes care of the artistry, while Danoff helps with the technical aspects.

"Hua Hua's puppet art, it really is unique," he says. "We really get to use so many different styles of puppets."

Zhang has created shadow puppets, rod puppets, marionettes, and full body puppets. Most recently, Zhang made a puppet for Opera Philadelphia's production of Madame Butterfly.

"I created a Cio Cio San, this popular character," says Zhang.

Danoff says Zhang often blends traditional styles she learned in China with Western styles learned here in the U.S.

Zhang says she considers puppetry to be "magical," because it can help to "show more depth" in a character.

"They connect to audiences of all ages," says Danoff.

He says the vast appeal stems from the puppets being "very moving" to watch.

"It is joyful job," says Zhang.

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