I generally do not worry about the air quality in Beijing. I just go about my business and take precautions when needed. I did not move here for a life of great air; I came here for other reasons; the people, art, reinventing myself again, to build a cultural bridge between our countries, giving opportunities to the local emerging artists to exhibit their work here and abroad, etc. The Chinese people live, work, eat, and raise their families here and have no options for cleaner air and bluer skies. The immigrant workers must come to Beijing or other large cities to make money for their families back home. The artists come here as US artists have done over the decades, migrating to New York and Los Angeles for their careers. This is where I am called to be.
The US Embassy daily measures the air pollutants through an AQI (Air Quality Index) monitor which measures air pollution (mainly ground-level ozone and airborne particles, which pose the greatest threat to human health) on a scale of 0-500, the lowest posing no health risks, the highest posing hazardous risks for all groups of people. Recently, the AQI has been off the charts into hazardous regions unknown. The air has been so murky that from my 24th floor apartment windows I could not see the 798 art district just one block away. I call these days “Monet Days” (as in the French impressionist painter, Claude Monet), or simply “a nice day to stay at home day.” As in everything in life there is good news and bad. You could call this the “bad news,” but there is always a silver lining if you look hard enough or not try to see so far.
Clear days are predictable and all the same, but depending upon the AQI these Beijing landscapes are never the same. The photos I have posted are from 2008 to now. They are eerily beautiful and dreamlike landscapes from an impressionist’s mind and palette. –James Elaine