Introduce yourself and describe your work and the media/genre you work in.
Hello, my name is Kathy Liao. I’m a visual artist, an art educator, and an art administrator. My recent paintings and wall drawing installations document the fluid state between experience, memory, and place.
In your artist statement you refer to the act of rituals, can you describe the rituals you speak of and how you are illustrating them either direct representation or mark making?
Home and Belonging is something I return to a lot, in my work. I immigrated to the US from Taiwan when I was a kid. Looking back, I find comfort in patterns and rituals that weaved through the way my family interacts, from a long distance. It’s social distancing before social distancing.
Growing up in the suburbs of Southern California, I remembered my father visiting every three months, traveling between my Taiwan home and my America home. I remembered him constantly packing and unpacking. His dream was eventually to move to the US to live here with us. The packing and unpacking were a ritual for him. Throughout the years, he kept bringing things from Taiwan to the US, to make the American house feel more comfortable, more a “home.” Many of these rituals are etched in my memory like a well-worn track through repetition. The long-distanced phone calls at the same time every day, the anticipation at Arrival and teary good-byes at Departure terminals at the Airport – these are familiar rituals performed by many immigrant families.
In this recent pandemic, I find myself thinking about the physical, emotional, and cyber distances we experience all around us. I think about the technologies that allowed us sometime the most intimate connection through a video a text, to keep in touch with those we love. And on the reverse, these technologies also make us Lose Touch to our reality with dividing social media feeds, and the disconnect.
In my paintings, I tried to capture space in between - How casual and instant gratifying a swipe or tap is, versus the physical impression and gravity of a squeeze of the hand, or an embrace. This translate into my work as I touch, wipe, rub, peel, and caress my drawing surfaces, giving the figures skin and weight.
I think also, about the layers of memories pass down through generation. My grandmother’s memories, overlapped through my mother’s retelling of her stories, layered with my very own lived experience. We can’t separate our perception of the RIGHT NOW from our past generational history to our envisioning of the future. The layering becomes part of the process of creating the image - layers of information that get build up, wiped away, sanded down to a ghost image, and resurfaces.
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
It would be a combo: sharpie, X-Acto knife, and glue.
What’s the most challenging thing about your creative process?
Finding a good balance in work, life, studio practice. I’m getting there.
What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
In the last six months, I felt the ground shifted beneath me. Like many of us experiencing the pandemic, BLM movement and uprising, I find myself returning to my personal development, a self-examination of my place in the America we live in today. As artists, we share our stories, find ways to translate our experiences; but the same stories and experiences take on new meanings as we start seeing them from multiple perspectives and an expanded knowledge base. I have so much to learn, and I look forward to new work taking shape.
Kathy Liao's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Pachinko by MinJin Lee
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Educated by Tara Westover
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Marie Brown
Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence by Derald Wing Sue
*pretty much anything by Margaret Atwood