We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Lai and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mary, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Balancing work and life has changed over time especially once I had kids. I picture this balancing act to be like surfing and reading each wave as they come. Some waves are a great ride and sometimes you get knocked out by them. Overall, I try not to be too hard on myself. The less I stress the better I balance and accomplish more.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My artwork evokes emotion and I have been told several times that my art brings a smile to their face and makes them happy. The bright vibrant colors and fun subject matter ranges from art, fashion, music and aspects of pop culture. I play with the structure of the alphabet which was originally influenced by my young kids. The series took on its own life that started with playfully connecting letters to people that have inspired generations and now has morphed into visual storytelling. It’s exciting to keep creating and evolving my work. I got to where I am today by working hard, taking risks, and following my dreams. Sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place since I’ve done such a range of work from handbags to homes but I’ve always stayed true to being a creative and doing what I love and this is what sets me apart from others. Everyone is different and all the challenges, lessons and experiences shape who I am as an artist, designer, entrepreneur and person. The current time in life teaches me that everything can change at any moment, so it is about going with the flow of what life brings. When life brings you lemons, make some mind-blowing lemonade using all your creative juices.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Los Angeles has such a range of experiences depending on what part of town you visit. For a week long trip it would be ideal to cover as much ground and I would base the visit around seeing as much art. We could start downtown at The Broad or MOCA then venture off to seeing street art with a mural tour and have lunch in the Arts District followed by a visit to Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Day 2 can be a hike up to the Griffith Observatory and unwinding by discovering local galleries and stores starting in Los Feliz, Silverlake to Echo Park with the Subliminal Projects gallery. Day 3 we can cover LACMA, La Brea Tar Pits and the Petersen Automotive Museum which are grouped close enough to cover three vastly different museums. Day 4 we can cover Rodeo Drive to experience the ‘Pretty Woman’ moment in Beverly Hills stop by the Gagosian then end up at the Hammer Museum. Day 5 can be covering Culver City Arts District for a full day of popping into galleries and ending with retail therapy at Platform LA. Day 6 we can start at William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica then have lunch in Sawtelle then walk off the meal on the Santa Monica Piers. The continuation of the west side can be riding a bike to Venice with a visit to the L.A. Louver Gallery and dinner on Abbot Kinney. Day 7 we can start from the Getty Center to the Getty Villa driving down the PCH and having a ocean view drink in Malibu. This rough itinerary would give you a great taste of all the different pockets of Los Angeles while exposing you to some of the creative art energy here.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My shout out is to an organization that supports emerging artists called The Other Art Fair. They actively work to shine light on new talent and their global art fairs allow art lovers to discover and buy artwork directly from the hand selected artists. I have been doing art & design professionally for over the past 15 years but only in the past year did I start showing my own artwork. Exhibiting at The Other Art Fair Los Angeles was my start to pursuing this journey and maybe it was beginner’s luck but I had an incredible experience and I credit them for giving me the validation to continue my journey as a visual artist.