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Life & Work with Yasuyo Maruyama

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yasuyo Maruyama.  

Hi Yasuyo, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
O.K. 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 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 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.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I don’t know if it’s been a smooth road. I started my artist career in Tokyo, Japan, where I had built good relationships with galleries and people in the art world. When I moved to the U.S., I knew that I didn’t have similar connections; therefore, it would feel like I was starting over in a new art world. Unfortunately, the transition didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped. For three years I applied for competitions and other art opportunities with no luck – just rejection notices. I felt discouraged, frustrated, and hopeless. However, I was (and am) passionate about my art career. I kept working and I kept applying. Little by little, I began receiving acceptance notices and prizes which lead to sequential opportunities, such as commissions and exhibitions. I don’t give up easily; I continue working patiently towards my goal. That is one of my strengths.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My 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. 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.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I would like to share the following information and news. Three galleries in Tokyo (GALLERY NAO, GALLERY MoMo, and Shunpudo Gallery) and one in Dallas (Ro2 Art Gallery) that represent my work. One of my paintings will be shown in Fort Worth at Artspace111 in Fort Worth from July 16 to August 27. Several new works will be shown during ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA at OKURA HOTELS & RESORTS in Fukuoka, Japan represented by Gallery Nao from September 30 to October 3. My newest solo exhibition is scheduled at Redbud Gallery in Houston for March 2023.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Yasuyo Maruyama
Suguru Hiraide

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