When Assistant Professor of Art Kathy Liao was close to graduating from the University of Washington in Seattle with a neuropsychology degree and applying for medical school, she found she was having trouble writing a personal statement about why she wanted to be a doctor. That, she said, was what helped her realize that she was on the wrong career path.
“I always loved to paint and draw, and I was always drawing a lot of sketches,” she said. “But I figured I would always do it on the side,” she said.
But after that pivotal moment, Liao, a native of Taipei, Taiwan who moved to the United States in middle school, earned her neuropsychology degree and then earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Painting and Drawing from the University of Washington. A Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Boston University followed, and she served as an instructor of art at both University of Washington and Boston University before joining the Missouri Western staff in 2014 to teach painting and printmaking.
“The more I teach, the more I love it,” Liao said. “I’m passionate about it and I enjoy sharing my expertise with students. I want to help them continue to grow.”
Her goal is for her students to have successful, sustainable art careers, and as a means to that end, she started an artist-entrepreneur speaker series at Missouri Western so her students can meet and network with others in the art field.
Liao says she enjoys teaching the students the technique of the craft and encouraging the students to think creatively to solve problems. Her science background often shows through, she said, because she is always “playing and experimenting.”
She is also excited about the recent gift of the print collection of Dr. William Eickhorst, professor emeritus of art, to Missouri Western. “As a printmaker, I am all the more impressed with the collection, which included regional and national contemporary artists throughout the years, which as a whole, culminates to an unmatched survey and record of contemporary printmaking of the highest caliber,” Liao said. “It is such an incredible resource for the students to be able to study from the master; but moreover, for the students to witness the vastness and the endless possibilities of printmaking, the lineage and the continued relevancy of printmaking over the years.”
It wasn’t until graduate school that Liao learned the art of printmaking, and she found that she really enjoyed it. “Printmaking forces you to think about an image in a totally different way. It has helped me re-examine the way I paint and allowed me to execute my ideas very differently. My work changed quite a bit since I started printmaking.”
Three years ago, she received a one-year residency through the Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residency Fellowship in Kansas City, Missouri, and last year, she was selected from a competitive process for a three-year StudiosINC Residency Fellowship in Kansas City. That fellowship comes with a large studio space in the Crossroads District, which allows her to create larger pieces than she has in the past.
Her goal is to work in the studio about 15-16 hours a week, and she carves the time out around her teaching schedule on campus. Some days it means being in the Kansas City studio by 7 a.m. before her afternoon classes, and working there most weekends. Summers are her opportunity to enjoy hobbies like hiking, camping and baking.
Liao has exhibited her works in exhibitions all over the country, including in the group exhibit, In Her Own Image: Women’s Self Portraiture from 1900-2017, at the Concord Center for the Arts in Concord, Massachusetts. She was also featured in a Hello Atelier! podcast, where she talked about what it means to be a working artist.
And “working” is the operative word for Liao, as she handles the roles of painter, printmaker and professor. “I just wish there was more of me to give to the students.”