Mapplethorpe/Smith, Callahan/Eleanor, Weston/Wilson, Man Ray/Miller—all male photographers whose work, and identity, were bound to their female muses. But I could not think of one male muse to a female photographer, until I saw Pixy Liao’s work. Her muse is Moro, a Japanese musician five years her junior whom she met during her graduate studies in Memphis.
She had seen Antonioni’s Blow-Up when she was still living in China and decided she wanted to be a photographer. Her initial picture series was about the South. No surprise there, and quite traditional, but towards the end of her studies her work became more experimental. She started a long-term project, Experimental Relationship, inspired by her relationship with Moro. It is conceptual, tongue in cheek, a playful poking at stereotypical male/female images, and it is done in a refreshingly colorful way. But it is less a formal feminist statement than it is a witty examination of gender relationships. Pixy, the rebel, challenges traditional male/female roles, values, and power struggles.
Her work is partially autobiographical, but she also sees it as the staging of a performance, a two-way street. Her images reflect ideas influenced by her real-life relationship, and when performed in her work, they in turn influence her relationship with Moro.
For Your Eyes Only, her current project, is a more body-oriented extension of her relationship series. She calls it a playfully naughty alternative to porn photos. The photos are sexy on the surface but in fact achieve the opposite. I think her work will always be experimental and a touch rebellious, no matter what the subject. Light and accessible, it also deals with fundamental issues. And it is as original, and refreshing, as she is.