LILY WONG photo by Vivian Loh
LOWLOW: Best way to start your day?
LILY WONG: Turning on my Roomba and having breakfast at the diner across the street.
Why do you choose to continue working traditionally when so many have moved over to digital art-making processes?
Partially because I don’t have the patience to learn digital processes! I’m also a little bit of a control freak, and I think that if I worked digitally, things might end up looking a little too perfect? Drawing and painting is a lot more hands on and there are a lot of factors that I can’t control or perfect. I like that it forces me to be a little loose and go with the flow.
The girls you paint feel so mysterious yet approachable, shy yet assertive in their often nakedness... Who are these beautiful ladies?
I’m still trying to figure that one out myself. The female nude has always been very present throughout art history, especially Western art, but many of these paintings or sculptures were made by men. It’s a little uncomfortable to think about these often anonymous female models being represented as idealized forms created by men, which falls in line with patriarchal dominance. I am trying to figure out how to enjoy and reference these images while being critical of their history and realities. So I think who these women are, although they are not one person in particular, evolves a lot with my own female identity as well as my changing perceptions and understanding of their history.
Outside of art, what do you find really important in your life?
My home and my friends--human, animal, and plants. I’m a creature of comfort, so it is important to me to take care of the things in my life that make me feel good.
Your work often involves traditional Asian objects, scenery, architecture, etc. What is the importance of your personal heritage to your body of work?
I’m driven to make work as a way to erase past shame and embarrassment I used to have regarding my Korean-Chinese heritage. I spent many years trying to distance myself from anything Asian before I finally learned to embrace it. I’ve actually become very protective and defensive of my cultures, maybe as a way to make up for all the times I tried to run away and hide from it. Even though my work is very influenced by Western painting, I actively try to utilize Asian aesthetics into play because on a deeply personal level, my work is almost a type of revenge against whiteness dictating our standards of beauty, intelligence, acceptance...everything. It’s like I’m fighting my natural inclinations towards the Western standards I grew up with. This often leaves me very conflicted, which I think can be reflected in my work.
My bedsheets after they've been washed. Kimchi, although this one is a love-hate smell. Herbs and flowers. I actually have never thought about this!
Best way to end your day?
Honestly, lighting up a joint. It helps me relax and turn the dial down on my obsessive tendencies. Plus it sort of tunes out some of the noisier thoughts in my head and helps me to focus on more creative things. If I'm not allowed to say that, then the second best way is turning on my salt rock lamp, lighting some candles, watering my plants, and having a snack.