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Interviewed August, 2005
By J

May Yao

more work at website

      Two Campaign photosInstallation 1Installation 2Opening reception  
May Yao
Gregg Anderson
Cristina di Chiera
Erik Gould
Kathleen Griffin
Elizabeth Keithline
Scott Lapham
Rafael Lyons
Julie Manso and Carl Dunn
the Men of Letters
Rag and Bone Bindery
Howie Snieder
Herb Weiss
Cliff Wood
May Yao

Fashion or Function?

May Yao graduated RISD's graduate sculpture program in 2001, and has been working and making work in Providence and Pawtucket since. Her work has always fascinated me in its elegance, perfection and presentation (she was part of our Transformation show back in April 2004). Normal objects take on sexual overtones, like drums with voluptous body parts, or a drum case filled with… well, we dont know what, but it exudes glamour and intrigue.

I asked her a few questions on the eve of her solo show at AS220 entitled Campaign: A Traveling Sculpture in which she poses with a custom drum case in front of America and Europe's great museums.

In this show, your work has taken a slight turn. Your objects are always well crafted and you have been working with a drum theme for awhile, but in this show the object has taken a back seat to the photo documentation of you with the object… what brought about the shift?

I think the biggest departure from how I usually make work is the process of making. The process relied a lot on collaborations and less "hands-on" fabrication. Unlike all my other exhibitions, where each sculpture is its own entity, Campaign is an installation. All the elements in the show comes together to make this one large sculpture. It may seem as though the photos are the main focus for this show, but isn't it true with most campaigns? You have the one product. Now you have the models in photographs to sell the product. What really arouses desire? The photos, the models, or the product? Therefore, my campaign is a sort of fictional advertisement.

I am still aiming for an intrinsic presence with the objects I make, however, in this show, its the presence of media, a fiction of promotion that I am trying to create. Fashion is in our everyday life, much like all my subject matter. How do I transform the known and the familiar? Have all my sculptures been imitations? Can imitation become something real?

What do you think of the art scene in Providence, having been here for six years now? Is there any hope for a sculptor in this town?

I have hope in what I do. Am I making a living as a maker? NO. Am I getting enough exposure to further my career in Providence? NO. There are many factors to my answers to these questions. There are many types of artists, and I have no doubt that some sculptors do very well in Providence. Very much of it depends on people's perception of the function of art objects. Are they objects of entertainment? How do people want to be entertained? How hard are people willing to work to think or to communicate? Is it Providence or our culture in general?

If cheap studio space and a place to have a decent day job are keeping you here, what will finally make you leave for NYC?

I do want to get out of Providence. It is a very lovely city but I need to show my work to a wider audience. Artistically I do feel a bit suffocated, people do not come to Providence to see art. Living expense is the main reason I am not living in NY. I need the time to make work, and living in Providence has allowed me to work three days (for money) and the rest of the week in my studio. I am trying to plan my finances for moving, hopefully within the next five years. The most important thing is to stay in the game, no matter where I am.

More of May's work can be found on her website.

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