Today we’d like to introduce you to Yasuyo Maruyama.
Yasuyo, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I was born in Kanagawa, Japan. When I was a first grader, my family went to Ohio for my father’s job and lived there for 3 years. During those years, my parents took my brother, sister, and me on a trans-America road trip and also traveled Europe and South America. We visited many historical places, cultural areas, and national parks. I was a very active child brimming with curiosity and loved interacting with people around me. However, when I was becoming an adolescent, I had severe atopic dermatitis and suffered from the disease for over 3 years. I had scars all over my face and body and was hardly able to attend classes at my high school or to take care of myself daily without my mother’s help. When I could go out, I felt people looked at me strangely and sometimes heard unpleasant comments on my appearance. As a young girl, this hurt me both physically and mentally, so I became depressed and avoided people. I stayed home and read Manga and watched Anime instead of going out.
During that time, I also drew characters and portraits, and, eventually, drawing opened up a new window for me. I was eager to learn drawing and painting more seriously and studied at an art prep school in Tokyo for 3 years. Then I was accepted into art school, Tokyo Zokei University, where I received BFA and MFA degrees in Painting. I was hired as an assistant for the art professors at the same university. However, I was interested in resident artist programs in the U.S. and, thanks to one of my mentor professors, Masami Kondo, I was introduced to a professor at Midwestern State University in TX. In 2014, I was invited as a resident artist to the university for one year. During my residency, I fell in love with an artist and married him in 2016. I have since continued to live and create my artwork in Texas.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
My recent paintings are figurative portraits, but they are not photo realistic. The colors and designs reflect my images and impressions of the model for each piece. Portraits are very intriguing subjects to me. Every personality is unique, and each person probably has different impressions for me than the others. Like selecting an outfit for a model or friend, we don’t necessarily choose the same combination of colors and style for him or her based on these impressions. For example, one may say, “She is active and social. These light green pants will look nice on her,” and another person may say, “No, she is kind and tender. I like this light pink dress on her better.”
For my paintings, I interview my models and ask questions to get to know them better personally while I take photographs of them. Meanwhile, to prepare the painting, I apply 30 to 40 layers of white base coats on a wood panel. After it has dried, I sand the surface with abrasive papers all the way up to a 2000 grit until it becomes super smooth. Finally, I paint layer-by-layer of very thin oil paint to achieve an extremely flat surface finish. The process takes time and may sound tedious, but I need to do that in order to accomplish the most satisfying results.
What do you know now that you wished you had learned earlier?
As an artist, I strive to depict the embodied images in my subjects that are exactly the same as the inspired images in my head. If my work can make the viewer feel a little happy, I am delighted. And when people enjoy it enough to acquire and support my work, that is even better. I am thankful for my family, friends, galleries, and my dearest husband, who all make it possible for me to work on my paintings.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
There are two galleries in Tokyo (Gallery MoMo and Shunpudo Gallery) and one in Houston (Cindy Lisica Gallery) that represent me and my work. I will show my paintings in Tokyo this year at Shunpudo Gallery (September 20-September 29) and Gallery Nao (October 10 to October 20). Here in TX, my work will be at Kemp Center for the Arts in Wichita Falls (November 1-January 13), and my solo exhibition is scheduled at Cindy Lisica Gallery for September 2019.
Photo by the artist