The celebrated author, artist, and educator Tseng Yuho, also known as Betty Ecke, died in China on September 16. The ink and calligraphy artist was one of the founding members of the Society of Asian Art of Hawaii.
Born in Beijing in 1925, Tseng was trained in classical painting. After attending Furen University, she married Gustav Ecke in 1945. The couple eventually settled in Honolulu, where she earned a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii. In 1972, Tseng received her Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.
Tseng worked in a variety of media, including traditional Chinese mount-making, painting, and calligraphy. Her first exhibition was held in 1959 at the Honolulu Museum of Art, where her husband served as its first curator of Asian art. In the 1950s, the artist designed stage sets and costumes for the operas Job and L’Orfeo by Luigi Dallapiccola and Claudio Monteverdi, respectively. She also traveled to Europe, where she met artists such as Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Georges Braque, and Salvador Dalí.
Her works range from landscape paintings to dsui hua, or assembled paintings made from mixed media and paper collage. Commenting on her practice, Tseng said, “In my work I have tried to unite many elements of the visual arts of China into one entity and give it a soul . . . I am but a single drop of the ocean and I occasionally feel that I am at the edge of the world. Like the astronauts walking in unlimited space, I feel my creative efforts do not convey a sense of being lost, but of being found.”
In the 1970s, Tseng began teaching at the University of Hawaii. Over the years, she was commissioned to create public works for a number of locations, including the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. In 1974, she received the Paul S. Bachman Memorial Award for her contributions to improving relations between the United States and Asia, and from 1977 to 1985, she was the first director of the Council for Chinese Studies at the University of Hawaii.