Muralist breaks stigmas attached to career artist

By Ryan Ward | October 10, 2022


For artist Jenie Gao, art and storytelling started at a young age.

“My earliest memory of wanting to be an artist was from when I was three years old,” said Gao. “I remember just having a very distinct and visceral feeling that art was something that I was good at. And it was a way that I could tell stories.”

Gao is the daughter of Chinese and Taiwanese parents who immigrated to the United States. Art was not seen as a sustainable career by her parents.

“There were many ways in which the arts were discouraged in my immediate environment,” said Gao. “In a way, it became something that very early on, I felt the need to fight for which funnily enough hasn’t changed.”

As a member of both the immigrant and BIPOC communities, Gao has found struggle and acceptance hard to come by for an artist.

“If you cannot get recognition and respect via the skin that you’re in, at the very least you can get respect for the profession that you’re in,” said Gao. “And unfortunately, that’s not the way that the arts are seen in the society we currently live in.”

A big part of Gao’s success resides in self-motivation and drive. She’s passionate about erasing stigmas attached to career artists. It’s that passion that keeps her going.

“My personality and life experiences are just to always want to get the next thing done,” said Gao. “I am very much someone who likes to-do lists and milestones, and I I’m fixated on getting things done.”

Gao’s art is a combination of printmaking, installations, and public murals. Her work can be seen all over the Dane County area as well as in Milwaukee.

“Out of an estimated 8.7 million animal species on the planet. We are the only ones that actively record our images and information,” said Gao. “It’s an amiable form of expression for humanity, and that we’ve been here.”

Ryan Ward

Ryan Ward

Ryan Ward is a producer for the “Wisconsin Life” project and can rest easy after he finally found the perfect jar of homemade dill pickles at the farmer’s market in Madison. … just like his Grandma Shirley use to make!

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