An artist from Montrose will be featured in a solo art exhibit at the Orazio Salati Studio and Gallery for November’s First Friday in Binghamton, N.Y.
Born in China, Amy Hoi-Ngan Hsiao moved with her family to Hong Kong as a small child. “I was raised in Hong Kong, a very big city with people from everywhere,” she said.
Relatives moved to Pennsylvania, and a cousin opened up a restaurant in Montrose, Great Dragon. “It was a family thing, now most of my (extended) family members live here. I have been here so long, longer than anywhere else, that I consider myself local,” she said.
Hsiao began to study art at Montrose Area High School when she enrolled there in 10th grade. Almost immediately, her talent was noticed. Two of her pieces were selected for the school’s permanent gallery of student art: a landscape, and a lovely ink study of hands with Chinese characters.
She studied art fundamentals at Keystone College for two years, then transferred to Alfred University in New York, where she concentrated in ceramic design and earned a bachelors degree.
She had a strong ability for realistic work, and her self-portraits are instantly recognizable. She enjoyed painting landscapes, and exhibited several in her studio for the Susquehanna County Artists Tour, held Columbus weekend.
However, as she prepared for her one-woman show, she noted that this exhibit will focus exclusively on abstract paintings.
“These are all acrylic and water-based ink,” she said. “I don’t like the smell of turpentine or how oils take forever to dry. I really like speed. I like contrast and extremes.”
When she graduated from Alfred, she returned home to her family and began working in the Great Dragon restaurant, taking orders, cooking, and preparing vegetables. The hours were long, and when she went home, she was tired. “I sort of gave up,” she said. “I had no studio, no place to concentrate, family and siblings at home, so I did almost nothing for 16 years with art.”
She started painting a little in her basement, on paper that would have otherwise been recycled.
Then her former high school art teacher offered her a studio room in a neighboring house. She began working there in February, and her imagination took off.
“I thought, ‘I could paint at night after work. I could paint on my day off,’” she said.
“Art opened me up more, and helped me to express myself. Now, I have a voice, and more important, even, meaning. I read my own work. Others read it differently, other people see things in it. But abstract is a better way for me. The landscapes, I feel happy when they are done and I look at them, but abstracts make me happy. I feel more energy, I feel really happy.”
Another thing that changed with the availability of the studio is how Hsiao paints. She abandoned the use of an easel and works directly on the floor. “I use more black and white, and limit color. Every painting is individual, but they are related by the same process. Line and contrast are very important to me.”
As a result, her confidence in her ability grew and so did her strength of images. “I now paint what I like and what works for me. Right now, painting in abstract, I can explore what I want to do, making an image, taking a 3D image into 2D without losing the concept.”
She said, “Painting a strict landscape: It’s just here, this is what that is, it is done. But there is not as much room to think deeper. With abstract, different times I look at it I see different things, different energy. It is a challenge.”
She is a self-described explorer when painting, following marks, shapes and the space between lines. She sometimes includes abstracted landscapes and roadways, including one mixed media work she includes in her show, titled “29 North.”
Her former art teacher, Bob Smith, said that when he and his wife Betty rented her the studio, “She worked like a house on fire. It is amazing to see how fluent she is in the studio, amazing how she works that ground.”
The show will kick off with a reception on First Friday, Nov. 3 from 6-9 p.m. The works will be available for view until Nov. 25 on Saturdays or by appointment. The gallery is located at 204 State St. in Binghamton. Further information is available by calling (607)772-6725.