Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m Mao, and I’m a Chinese female artist based in Calgary, AB, Canada. I grew up in China, where I finished my secondary education before going abroad to obtain my Bachelor’s and then a Masters of Fine Art in Canada. I’m a visual artist, painter, ceramist, and art educator. Currently, I work at VCAD and a UK educational group as an art instructor. I also have run a small batch ceramic production studio with my partner Chris Savage.
How did you get started as an artist?
I loved drawing when I was young. However, my parents recommended I study science when I began university to make it easier to find a good job in China. Not long after starting, I realized that science was not my passion, and I did not feel motivated to study at all. I had an opportunity to transfer to the University of Alberta, which is when I began to switch back to my passion: drawing and creating. I enrolled in a couple of art courses and found out I really liked it. I enjoy the process of making and am encouraged to continue to improve with each piece of art I make. I find the aspects of self-satisfaction and self-actualization tied to creation are the main reasons I’m now an artist.
How do you feel about being a woman in the art scene in Calgary?
As an immigrant female in Calgary, who belongs to a minority group with a different cultural background, it was not always easy. The differences in culture and aesthetics are good in that they make me unique but also, sometimes, there is a barrier for viewers to understand my work. A significant aspect of the art scene is the different organizations and collectives to support immigrants and female artists, such as The Women Centre, ICAI and the Fem Assembly. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with these amazing groups and meet the amazing people involved.
What do you think we can do in the city to better support women in art?
That’s a great question. I think we can hold more residencies, exhibitions, and events related to sharing the experiences of the community and contribute to celebrating the voices of women in the arts in general.
What are you most excited about for your residency here at the Women’s Centre?
I am most excited about the workshop, as workshops provide an excellent opportunity to allow the sharing of skills and stories to help people better understand themselves and the world around them through the making of art.
What does feminism mean to you?
From my standpoint as a woman, I want to use my voice to contribute to the discourse of female empowerment and advocate for equal rights and opportunities, not just for women
but also for all genders. My art practice focuses on exploring female representation and female empowerment through the subculture of Kawaii (Cuteness culture in East Asia). My partner’s ceramics business focuses on product designs for a female audience. We aim to explore soft/cute aesthetics and the memory of girlhood through objects that can be integrated into daily life as an embodiment of the power of cute.
Who is, or was, an influential woman in your life?
My mom has been a very influential woman in my life; she is my mentor, friend, and constant support. She is a very independent and intelligent woman whose strength I draw on for my work. She has and continues to teach me to be strong, independent, thoughtful, hard-working, and a continuous learner.