Fay Ku’s creations.
“It’s a recurring motif I’ve done in the past,” Ku says of her mythical, half human/half beasts. She adds that the creatures aren’t based on a specific person, but rather on an amalgamation of innate human values and ideas—an avatar of sorts.
“Just like video game characters can portray different aspects of themselves each time you revisit them,” Ku explains, her protagonists display different personalities.
“That one is still a little bit mysterious for me,” Ku tells SFR of “Birdfight” (pictured).
The former Santa Fe Art Institute resident adds that the piece is also an observation on machismo.
“I like the idea of a cockfight, because it’s these male birds that are pinned against each other; it doesn’t necessarily represent a particular person, just two players—two figures in a ritual,” she says. “Anytime that there’s a ritual, you’re devoid of ego and personality, and you just become a vessel for drama.”
Other pieces in the show continue her exploration of half humans/half birds. A fascination, she says, emanates from observing people incessantly play with their hair—one of her pet peeves.
“It makes me think of how birds tend to preen,” Ku says. It’s an act that, in humans, makes her ponder “anxiety and how aggression can turn inwards.”
Her love for harpies seals the feathered deal. “They were the first feminine monsters, because they wanted justice for women that had been wronged,” she says.
The duality of her creative process is also influenced by her multi-cultural upbringing as a child of Taiwanese immigrants who was “raised in all-white American suburbs.”
“It’s funny, because when I talk about it, I have to make it more black and white than it is,” she says. “It’s actually a lot more nuanced and complicated.”
Ku reflects on her teenage years, “I never really entered mainstream American culture and never became 100-percent socialized.”
This Friday, she presents her latest body of work at Eight Modern in an exhibit calledAsa Nisa Masa, a misnomer derived from a scene in Federico Fellini’s81/2, where Guido remembers the words from a childhood chant supposed to have the power to make eyes in paintings “come to life.”
“As a child, I saw the film and I didn’t get it,” Ku says. Upon rediscovering it as an adult, she understood the different layers of complexity rolled into a big, meta-package. “The movie is about the process, and the process of making a movie is the movie.”
The sentiment translates to her exhibit. “In some ways, the work that you see is me trying to figure out things,” she says.
“I don’t see the theme right now, but later on, I’ll figure it out,” Ku says of the show’s elements, referring to them as “little groups of figures that somehow work together.”
“Sometimes, it takes me a little while to see them objectively,” she continues. “If you’re in it, you can in some ways never see it.”
She calls those moments “blind spots” that become apparent only in retrospect. “We’re constantly revising our own narrative; even if it’s a couple of years later, we’re different people.”
Ku trusts that the breadth of her work is visible inAsa Nisa Masa, though she’ll let the viewer make up his or her own mind as, “a lot of the times,” she jokes, “the artists themselves are not the brightest ones.”