We had the good fortune of connecting with Larry Li and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Larry, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I grew up on Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Anime’s, and Jabbawockeez, and behind all these cultural icons were Asian creatives. Those were the Asian people I looked up to, and they were hard to find. Especially growing up in the Silicon Valley, Bay Area, where there are a lot of families like mine. Immigrant parents with first generation born American kids struggling to feel a sense of individualism in a system that only valued the highest test scores and the most prestigious colleges. It seemed like the model for our futures have been predetermined as children of immigrants. We owed it to our parents who traveled from these far lands to become that doctor, engineer or lawyer. Pursuing a career in the arts as a Chinese boy from where I came from was a direct challenge to not only my parents but to the model minority myth this country expected of me. My sister already became that electrical engineering major from Stanford, so as the youngest child my parents had to accept I wasn’t going the traditional route. I ended up moving to Los Angeles to figure this life out. At one point I thought I would be a dancer, as I was teaching classes at a number of studios during my time at college, but now I am focused on my career as a visual artist working on my Masters of Fine Arts at Otis College of Art and Design, focusing my practice around that complicated individualism of Chinese American Narratives.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work comes from a space of cultural contrast. I use symbols from my childhood, photographs, and historical subject matter, that I juxtapose with current issues, thoughts, and perspectives that I am currently experiencing. My paintings work off of that opposition of time and culture and links that back to my contrasted existence as a Chinese American. In general it is a long process of working through my cultural amnesia through different visual experiences. What I’m most proud of is the consistency of my practice, that It has always been about the representation of Asian American narratives from the very start. Since I began studying Fine arts at USC to now being a MFA Candidate at Otis college of art and design. When making work from a diasporic perspective, I am always challenged by the idea of proximity to culture. How do I make work about a culture that I am connected with yet disconnected from physically and spiritually. However the recent waves of attacks on Asian Americans and scapegoating of our people has reignited the flame in many of us. We all have a story to tell and now more than ever is the time to elevate them. I am hoping to be just a small part of a larger whole, and inspire other Asian American artists that struggled to find role models in the mainstream creative field, especially in the visual arts.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I don’t run with itineraries if my homies coming into town we just letting the vibe take us where we need to be. However there are definitely things we gotta do though. We going to K-town pho to get some grub and we going hiking or taking dance class at Snow globe perspective! and we also gotta see some art, Hauser N wirth, OTI, and then Salt n Straw. Okay I guess that is an Itinerary. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoutout to Residency Gallery in Inglewood, CA. They have always supported me since graduating from USC and they are always looking out for the community. Check out their upcoming group show, The New Contemporaries Vol. II opening April 7th, Where I’ll be showing with a group of amazing artists I truly look up to.