Yesiyu Zhao

June 1, 2021
Tell us about your practice.
As a Chinese immigrant living in America, I am inspired by the histories and legacies of the two countries and view my art as an apparatus to subvert societal conventions and uplift those who are considered as Other. Specifically, my work explores the intersection and morphing of different identities through the usage of certain cultural motifs such as body hair and high heels.
Can you talk about your current figurative approach?
Figures have always been there; they were just more disguised in my older paintings. In my more recent works, I decided to bring them to the foreground. Metaphorically, these marginalized characters don’t hide from societal judgment anymore and can thrive in the utopian worlds that I create.
Your work consists of a few recurring motifs like body hair, legs, and high heels. Can you talk about the thought behind these motifs and their juxtaposition within your work?
I juxtapose motifs like facial and leg hair, high heels, and makeup in my paintings to overturn the conventional aesthetic and gender binary. By humanizing the multitude of selves that one person can contain, I try to acknowledge the intersectional desire to be seen and understood.
What has been inspiring you lately?
Recently, I have been watching old movies by Wong Kar-Wai, such as In the Mood for Love. 
Wong captured 1960s Shanghai through shots of small alleys and tiny apartments. Through the vivid, dreamy atmosphere, the lust, tension, and despair between the two main characters are even further accentuated. Like Wong, I hope to create evocative settings that bring the characters in my paintings to life.
What’s next for you?
Around the middle of June, I will have a few paintings at Art Basel OVR: Portals with David Castillo Gallery, and a painting for a group show at Makeroom LA’s new location in Hollywood. And there will be more to follow for the rest of the year.

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