In the Gallery
New works of art by Nancy XiáoRong Valentine and Amanda Callahan
March 2 – April 2, 2022

The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center is pleased to present In Tandem – new works by artists Nancy XiáoRong Valentine and Amanda Callahan in our historic Main Avenue Gallery March 2 – April 2, 2022. An Artist Reception will be held Saturday, March 12 from 12-3pm with artist talks at 2pm. Interactive creative activities and light refreshments will be available.

This is an exhibition of two solo shows “in tandem” rather than two artists in a combined show. While each of the artist’s show statements are very different, they are complementary and have a through-line connection of encouraging patrons to turn inward for reflection.

The Cultural Center Gallery is always free to see and open to all. Regular open hours are:

  • Wednesdays 10am – 7pm
  • Thursdays 10am – 7pm
  • Fridays 10am – 5pm
  • Saturdays 10am – 3pm

We are closed Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, but available for private tours, shopping and rentals. Contact or call 218-385-3339. Please note, we will be closed Saturday 3/19/22 for a private rental; please accept our apologies for the inconvenience.


Thank You, Aunties: Diasporic Culture Through Oriental Objects
by Nancy X. Valentine

Title: Teenage Tiger Medium: Watercolor & Chinese Ink on cold-pressed watercolor paper Size: 22″x30″ Created: July 2021 Price: NFS

Title: Seoul Jar 2 Medium: Latex and acrylic paint on canvas Size: 24″x30″ Created: 2022 Price: $650












Thank You, Aunties: Diasporic Culture Through Oriental Objects is a compilation series of 2D works on canvas, paper, and wood panel created as a visual representation of my experience in the Asian Diaspora and curated as an homage to the “Aunties,” Asian Women, who lived before me.

It is difficult to describe when someone “steps into the Asian Diaspora.” Like, when does that clock start ticking, or is a clock or a calendar the right tools to even try to measure when the experience begins?

“Foreign born Chinese” is one way to describe it, but for this exhibition, the contextual definition of “Asian Diaspora” is people living outside of Asia who were born in Asia or who otherwise identify as Asian based on the language they speak and/or their ancestry. I’m using this umbrella term rather than “Chinese Diaspora” to express that my understanding of Chinese culture has been heavily influenced by diverse spiritual and physical Asian “Aunties” and most of their ancestry remains a mystery.

My mom traveled from the banks of the Huánghé 黄河 (Yellow River) to the banks of the Otter Tail River with me in utero. My father being from Iowa, meant that my mother was my portal to our Chinese culture. And after he passed away in 1996, my mother did everything she could to give my older brother and I the best life. Coming from China, she did what she had been taught her whole life – she turned to her “aunties,” who, at the time, included the women in her church congregation who supported and empowered her.

In China, it’s common practice to refer to any woman whom you perceive to be older than you as “auntie.” This social norm acts as a linguistic example of family being the base of Chinese culture and a societal acceptance and inherent understanding of kinship as a collective people. I learned this through experience – through the summers I spent in my mother’s home city of Lanzhou, Gansu, China.

Every year for over a decade, usually starting in July, my mother, older brother and I would return to China for 6 weeks. This was a version of “home” where they could blend in and we could embrace and celebrate our heritage culture out loud and proud.

For the rest of the year, we spoke English in our home on Cherry Avenue and ate pizza rolls and hot dogs more often than Lanzhou Beef Noodles. (Though dumplings were, and still are, a staple.) Because we prioritized these summers abroad, I went school shopping at Savers and learned to prefer rummage sales over trips to Target. “Second hand” is how I defined “brand new,” and ever since I can remember, I’ve collected, well, anything that my western eyes saw as “Asian” – Oriental Objects (Edward Said, Orientalism, 1978).

Throughout my life, these objects acted as literal representations of what I thought was Chinese culture. And my collection, without comprehending it, began to act as pixels of the picture I constructed of Chinese culture. My construct of Chinese culture was and is nuanced and not always factually “accurate.” And how could it be?

My collection of Oriental Objects consists of Japanese Kokeshi Dolls, Korean temple book ends, Chinese artist books, Hmong art, Vietnamese textiles, and the diverse list goes on. And when I first found out these objects in my collection weren’t Chinese in origin, I found sorrow. And it wasn’t until my adult life that I realized how deeply this still affects me.

As an Artist, or meaning-maker, I look at a scatter plot of data and connect the through-line that makes sense to me, then use my artistry to share that with the world. When I look at my life-long collection of Oriental Objects, I see gifts from aunties who cherished their motherland culture and carried these literal representations of culture and belonging across oceans.

Every time I come across an Oriental Object in a thrift store or rummage sale, I pause for a moment and say – sometimes out loud – “Thank You, Auntie.” To me, this is a spiritual practice of gratitude for what I perceive as a cultural blessing. And to honor that spiritual practice, the paintings in this show were created with a posture of gratitude for the aunties who walked this western world before me.

I want the people who view the artwork in this show to participate with the paintings. I want these depictions of Oriental Objects to remind viewers that their picture of their motherland/heritage culture(s) is pixelated similarly to mine. I want them to ask themselves who influenced their understanding of culture and what objects – whether intentionally antiqued, randomly acquired, whimsically thrifted or generationally gifted – in their own lives act as literal representations of culture and belonging.


Amanda Callahan: Reclaim













“Reclaim” is a potter’s term used to describe a piece of clay that has failed to embody its intended purpose. It is often identified as a flop, but can be repurposed and given a second chance at life. Reclaimed clay is a work in progress that has a history and memory; a past life shaped with pressure, strain, hopes & dreams. It has been formed, failed, and reclaimed, until it lives again in its true form.

Callahan’s Reclaim was activated by intimately connecting with the clay. Every surface has been squeezed, rolled, smoothed, and shaped by hand. From this attentive interaction, these forms have grown – symbolizing a reclamation of joy, a sense of wonder, and purpose. Callahan hopes that as you view this work, you may be reminded of the things that fill your soul, and that you make time – schedule time – demand time to embrace joy and live your work-in-progress life in its truest form.



Nancy XiáoRong Valentine (she/her) is a Chinese-American artist living and making a life in rural Otter Tail County, Minnesota. Conceived as the second child of a family residing in Lanzhou, Gansu during the era of China’s ‘One Child Policy,’ Nancy’s mother immigrated to Minnesota, USA in 1992 to gift her daughter the
opportunity of life.

Though often referred to as “the creative kid” throughout her lifetime, it wasn’t until 2016 that she officially launched her creative career. With natural artistic inclination, self-determination and children’s craft-quality watercolor supplies as the only tools in her bag, Valentine signed a lease with the Kaddatz Artist Lofts where she self-taught and began to pursue painting. In the spring of 2017, Valentine was awarded a Career Development Grant from the Lakes Region Arts Council which allowed her the means to acquire professional grade materials and the freedom to create with conviction.

Valentine views her artistry as a channel to deepen her cultural connections to and between her Chinese heritage and Midwestern roots. Her creative process begins and ends with intention, resulting in conceptually complex visual stories woven with nuance and symbolism. Her expressive stylized brushwork is inspired by

Chinese calligraphy and meant to evoke empathy. Valentine believes that artistry and advocacy work in tandem and lives out this value by being present and active in the Otter Tail County, MN creative community. In 2020, Valentine was named a Blandin Community Leadership Institute Cohort Member, a Lake Region Arts Council 2021 Cohort Artist, a 2021 Springboard for the Arts Artists Respond: Equitable Rural Futures Artist and a fiscal year 2022 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Learn more about Nancy’s artwork at her website:, on social media: @nancyxvalentine and at her Etsy Shop:  You can contact Nancy via email at


Amanda Callahan is a mom, step-mom, and grandma; a runaway, a rebel, and a punster; and a lover of stories, people, community, education, and art. Each day she insists on reclaiming her enjoyment of nuance, beauty, and the joys of life – and reminding others to do the same.

Amanda grew up on her grandpa’s farm not far from here, and attended New York Mills Elementary. She received a BA in studio art and a K-12 teaching license in visual art from the University of Minnesota, Morris. Her love for ceramics was first kindled and then nourished when she attended M-State in Fergus Falls under the direction of potter Lori Charest. She currently lives in Fergus Falls where she owns and operates Thrown Stones Ceramic Studio. She is also the director of education at the Kaddatz Galleries, where she revels in infusing the arts into the lives of her community members.

Amanda has a deep passion for the arts. She holds firm to the conviction that art can provide the impetus to better understand the world around us, the language to express the world inside us, and the motivation to drive change.


This activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through an operating support grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.