Summer kite exhibit flies in Oviatt lobby

Rabeeah Patail

A myriad of colored kites hanging from the ceiling under a dimly lit lobby have become the main attraction in the Oviatt Library.

The “Art In the Sky” exhibit, which has been on display since June 13, has come back by popular demand since its first viewing last summer.

Faculty, staff, students and community members have all reacted positively toward the exhibit, convincing curator and longtime kite collector Gina Hsiung to display only a portion of her more than 3000 kites.

“It’s a fun and ‘airy’ exhibit,” Hsiung said. “The kites bright up the lobby area and they say ‘summer.'”

Hsiung, who has been collecting kites for the past 17 years, says her passion bloomed when she met her husband. After finding a kite in Marina del Rey similar to the one he flew in Pakistan, Hsiung’s husband immediately had a blast from the past. Ever since then, their collection has become innumerable.

In addition to collecting kites, Hsiung and her husband have been members of the American Kite Flyers Association. The pair has been attending numerous kite festivals, including the well known annual Washington State International Kite Flying Festival, and Hsiung’s husband has also won several flying contests.

As a fervent member of the kiting community, Hsiung has incorporated her experience and passion into her second exhibit.

The exhibit features more than 50 different types of kites from India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Bali, Malaysia and the U.S., and gives viewers a glimpse of the different types of kites.

“Kites have been used for religious ceremonies, in war for observing the enemy and target practices,” Hsiung said, adding that men like Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Wilson used their knowledge of kite flying to learn more about the wind and weather.

During WWI, the British, French, Italian and Russian armies used kites for signaling and enemy observation, she explained.

New this year to the exhibit is the 3-D clipper ship kite. The kite, which has already become a fan favorite because of its design and colors, was handcrafted in Bali with nylon sails and bamboo support. Other new kites in the exhibit are the Tri-Star Cellular Box Kite and the Chinese Dragon Kite.

“I like the sun kite because it gives the theme of a nice summer day, but I love the Chinese Dragon Kite,” sociology major Elizabeth Garcia said. “I love its color and details.”

Hsiung agrees.

“We have one [Chinese Dragon Kite] at home hanging from our ceiling,” she said, adding that it brings good fortune in the home; the deer horns on the kite represent longevity and good luck, the tiger eyes represent might and strength, the catfish whiskers represent material wealth, the beard represents intelligence and talent and the segmented body, like a centipede, represents a snake.

Aside from featuring new kites, the exhibit also explores the concept of sport kites and kite boarding.

According to Hsiung, sport kites were invented in 1972 by Peter Powell and grew with experimentations on new designs that could fly precisely, maneuver and execute intricate tricks, developing into sport kite competitions.

“Kite boarding is using a kite to surf the waves [where] a kiteboarder uses the power of the wind to surf, at times being 20 to 30 feet up off the ocean,” said Hsiung, adding that the sport has become an extreme form of kiting.

Despite its success, library employees and viewers of the exhibit are saddened that the exhibit is on display only during the summer because less students attend summer school.

“Almost everyone has a fond memory of flying kites as children,” said Hsiung in response to what viewers can learn from the exhibit. “Kites are simple things, yet they have endured for hundreds of years.

“Flying kites is a universal activity, limited only by the imagination.”

The exhibition is free and open to the public and will remain in the library until Aug. 13.

Viewers wanting more information regarding kites can visit Hsiung’s Web site http:www.csun.edu/~hfoao033/fighters.html.