Amanda Lai in her studio
A night owl in a slightly messy studio!

Working in multiple mediums, I often find it difficult to define what “type” of artist I am. My work draws influence from a variety of domains, including performance art, traditional painting, and new media, however, I would describe myself most closely as a storyteller. 

I am have lived in the Finger Lakes Region for most of my life since moving to Rochester from New York City at a young age, and like many others, I grew up making art. Comics and graphic novels formed a significant part of my youth, and with my background in writing and digital arts, it seemed natural that I would end up working with narratives. I often work in a series and explore alternative ways to tell a story beyond the book. Each artwork acts not only as a snapshot of a certain moment in time but also as a piece of a larger story. 

Painting by Amanda Lai
Someone Like Me, It’s Not a Lie (2014), Acrylic and paper on canvas 40″x20″

I graduated from the University of Rochester in 2016 with a Bachelor in Arts in Studio Arts. Struggling to compromise the different social identities I saw in myself, I began to focus on the role social relationships play in our lives. The bonds between people have always interested me, and I often find myself asking the following questions: How do we use constructs like family and race to define ourselves as individuals? How do individuals negotiate conflicting aspects of their identity?

Summer Meditations, an exhibition at the Genesee Valley Council for the Arts in 2019
Summer Meditations, an exhibition at the Genesee Valley Council for the Arts in 2019

Most of my work is done digitally using both 2-D and 3-D rendering programs. My work often does not begin with a concept sketch of any kind. Rather, I start with a general idea and then play around with photographs I have taken and 3D models until I get a rough idea of what I want the finished piece to look like. At that point, I would use my draft “photobashed” image as a reference for paintings. Using a combination of a Wacom Bamboo tablet and a Huion Pro tablet, I mimic traditional painting techniques through a digital medium. 

Amanda Lai digital painting
A piece completed digitally for a 2016 exhibition at the University of Rochester

The two pieces currently being shown in Figure/Ground are part of a series of “portraits” focusing on birds in the Western New York region. This series signifies a departure from my previous work with a return to traditional media and a focus on animal subjects. However, the theme of “stories” still plays a large role in these pieces. I have loved birds, particularly birds of prey, since childhood. After observing a group of red-tailed hawks return to our neighborhood for three consecutive years, I began to wonder what these birds must have seen throughout their travels. What messages do they bring about our area’s ecological health? Red Tail Hawk and Oak actually features one of these hawks that returned to our home in the second year! 

Two Drawings by Amanda Lai
Teddy and Red Tail Hawk and Oak by Amanda Lai in Figure/Ground at Main Street Arts

I am honored to a part of this exhibition at Main Street Arts. If you would like to see more of my art, you can follow me on Instagram at @laiartandillustration.


Amanda Lai is one of 19 artists included in Figure/Ground, an exhibition on the second floor at Main Street Arts. The exhibition runs through October 30, 2020.

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