|Photos by James Q. Martin|
Lifang Yao always had two dreams for her life—to be an artist and a teacher. As an international student hailing from the Fujian Province of China, she has spent this semester at Northern Arizona University learning new art teaching methods and showcasing her paintings in galleries and restaurants across town. As she readies herself to return home to China to share with her art students what she has learned in the States, she simply smiles and says her life has been “a dream come true.”
Yao has been interested in art since childhood and went on to pursue art as a profession at Fujian Normal University College of Fine Arts, where she is currently a teacher.
She specializes in painting traditional Chinese artwork with a modern twist. She uses the gouache style of painting, which incorporates using brush, ink, opaque watercolor and Korean rice paper, while drawing on both sides of the paper, according to her biography. Yao says she loves blending traditional methods with contemporary themes to create an art style all her own.
“I didn’t find this kind of work in America or other countries,” says Yao.
“I try to show my nationality in my work and show the spirit of Chinese traditional culture. So I try to contain the science of Western culture, the aesthetics feeling of modern form and the national spirit of traditional culture in my works.”
Yao loves to focus her paintings on figures, including still lifes and nudes. She says she finds the form of a woman very beautiful and tries to bring out that beauty within her work.
Her paintings blend a myriad of dark and light tones, usually combined with dramatic figures that resound with emotion. One such painting, titled “Hope,” features a woman standing in a field of flowers looking upward toward the colorful sun and its rays. Due to Yao’s distinctive painting techniques, the painting seems textured and almost seems to jump off of the canvas.
One of Yao’s other works, titled “A Glimpse of Memory,” showcases a still life scene of colorful pots and fruits. It also features the same textured feel and beautiful, contrasting vivid colors.
And, another one of Yao’s still life paintings titled “Happiness,” showcases her love for her culture. The painting features traditional Chinese folk toys with a paper cut out, all blended together in the brilliant colors found in all of her work.
Although Yao has experienced success as an artist in China, including being showcased at the National Art Museum of China and winning many awards, she says she began showing her work in the States as well to serve as a gateway for both cultures.
“My goal is not to sell my work, but to show both cultures the kind of art style I paint in,” Yao says. “I’d like to serve as a bridge for both cultures, a sort of cultural communication of the art world. Maybe my work can provide people an example of what the young artists are thinking about the tradition art and culture of China.”
To reach art fans in town, Yao showcased her work at a recent Art Walk. She says it was an interesting experience because many people were interested in her work and asked lots of questions about it.
“And, I got to sell some work too,” Yao says with a coy smile.
Another highlight of her stay in America was being able to visit New York, where Yao toured many art galleries and also brought her artwork to show to prospective galleries as well.
During her time in Flagstaff, Yao says she has been observing American-style teaching methods and taking classes of her own. It’s been an amazing experience for her to see the similarities and differences between the development of American and Chinese artwork, she says.
Because of all she’s learned, her goal is to go home and share her newfound knowledge with her students who may not have had a chance to learn about it otherwise.
“Some of my students don’t know many things about the outside art world,” Yao says. “So I’m going to bring home all of this important art information to the students.”
As she heads home to China, Yao says she will bring many memories and new art techniques with her to share with those back home. She plans on continuing her art career in China and is excited to see what the future has in store.
“Being an artist in China is different than it is here [in America],” Yao says. “The point is not to sell your artwork, but to show what kind of artwork you’re doing and share it with others. Now not only will I have artwork to share, but knowledge from two cultures as well.”
To see examples of Yao’s artwork, go to www.fineartamerica.com and search for Lifang Yao under the artists’ profiles section.
Yao’s work will be on display at Brix restaurant, 413 N. San Francisco, through Tue, Jan. 9. Call Brix at 213-1021 for viewing times and details.
Additional photos for this story:
ÔMaidens in the BreezeÕ