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Cao Yong Masterpiece - "Paradise"
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Image Size:18.5" x 31"
Archival Giclee on Canvas
Limited Edition of 550 Signed and Numbered plus 55 Artist Proof
Image Size: 29" x 48"
Archival Giclee on Canvas
Limited Edition of 425 Signed and Numbered plus 45 Artist Proof

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Story About Toby

I dedicate "Paradise" to the memory of Toby, who left me during the completion of this painting.

Not long ago, I was involved in an auto accident which almost ended my life. I was spared, but my constant companion since my arrival in this country, a little bird called Toby, was not. I was devastated.

Toby, a tiny cockatiel, came into my life six years ago when I first immigrated to the United States. It was a time of struggle for me, since I had to prove myself and demonstrate my abilities to a new audience in a new world. I was well prepared for the arduous climb up this Everest, yet I was not ready for the profound loneliness that would accompany my journey.Over several long years, Toby was my only companion. When I drove into the country, he perched upon my steering wheel, taking in every inch of the land we traversed; when I wielded my brush, he was upon my shoulder, carefully inspecting each stroke I put upon the canvas. Every day, as I raised the fledgling bird, I poured out my heart to him--only he knew all my joy, my pain, my confusion, and each detail of my dreams.

Had I never shared these years with Toby, I would never have believed that a simple bird could understand a human being so well, well enough to become the true soul mate of a man. When I was happy, Toby would sing and dance to his heart's content, and mine. When I was sad, Toby would study me with worried eyes, then take his place on my shoulder and rub his downy head gently against my ear. Of course, Toby required the same of me. When he was cheerful, I was the one who hummed and jigged with him, and when he was irritated, I was the one he scolded--or worse, ignored, leaving my ear cold. To Toby, I must have been an enormous bird; but to me, Toby was a little feathered son--and I loved him as I would a son, with heart and soul.

Several years ago, I drove to Taos, New Mexico, to visit the former residence (and now a museum) of famous artist Nicolai Fechin. I was following a vision from my past: many years before as a child in China, I happened to see Fechin's pain ting of his young daughter Eya, printed on dark, coarse paper; this was to be the only beautiful memory of my earliest years. Surprisingly, I learned upon arrival at the residence that Eya, then in her nineties, still lived there. Ignoring the shouts of the museum guards, I dashed to the back of the enclosure: there I saw, through a half-opened window, an elegant older lady sitting in shadow inside the house. How could I get her attention? I was outside a fence, yards away from the window. As I stood anxiously debating, suddenly Toby, who had never once left my shoulder in an unfamiliar setting, rose and flew toward the house, landing upon the open window's sill. There he chirped and preened until Eya came to the window, whereupon he leapt lightly onto her hand. "What a lovely bird! Is he yours?" she called out to me, smiling. Moments later, I was in the house sitting next to Eya, as Toby hopped between us, immensely proud of having arranged the introduction. How could Toby have known that I had dreamed of this moment my entire childhood? And how could he have known that he could make the dream spring to life?

In recent years, as I strived toward the realization of my dream, I have seen too many people around me falter, loosing inner balance. Yet Toby always remained the same. Many times, I saved his life from the swift pounces of cats, from attacks by dogs, and even from the rushing water of a flood. He always returned the favor, by bringing tenderness and tranquility to the depths of my heart with his vital presence.

Losing Toby was unbearable; I will never cease missing him. For now I believe that Toby is in a celestial place in which we will one day be reunited. But until then, his lovely, joyful, and tender spirit will always hover near me÷just as I humbly trust it will hover near all who experience my paintings.

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