Interview: Xao Yang Lee @ JMKAC

Jul. 22, 2009
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A featured artist at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in their "American Story" exhibition, Xao Yang Lee calls Sheboygan, Wisconsin home. While living in a refugee camp in Thailand after the Vietnam War in Laos that she escaped by swimming the Mekong River, Yang Lee began producing traditional decorative arts native to her culture that allowed her to buy medicine and clothing for her children so they might survive.  Then Yang Lee traveled to the United States in 1980 where Wisconsin claimed her family and she continued to create artwork to earn money for her children's schooling. With some of her children grown now, and a son who is a Family Practioner of Medicine in Milwaukee, Yang Lee often babysits for her grandchildren.  But the bright colors and carefully placed stitches still embroider her heritage on cloth, which carry these memories of her homeland through delightful patterns and pictures in thread.

Q: You have a large quilt, almost six feet long, in the exhibit. How long did his take to create?
A: I work about five hours a day, and this quilt took six months to make, finish.

Q: What do you enjoy about your artwork?
A: Its about my culture, from my homeland. It reminds me of my homeland, which I hope to pass on from generation to generation.

Q: Do any of your daughters help with the artwork?

A: I do have four daughters that sometimes help. But most of it is done by me. They are busy with high school but do know some stitches.

Q: What does the summer hold for you after the opening of the exhibit?

A: I do summer art fairs, and my husband helps me. All around Wisconsin. I make and stitch tablecloths, tree skirts, t-shirts, quilts, wall hangings, dresses jackets, and purses. They are all embroidered and for purchase, my own business.


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