meet an artist mondayIn drawings, sculptures, environmental installations and increasingly working directly in nature, artist Flora Kao explores the lyricism of spatial constructs of experience. From full-scale contact drawings of homes with personal and cultural significance, to sculptural objects invested with emotional and societal meaning, as well as taking a narrative interest in our cultivation of the natural world, Kao examines the liminal entanglement of memory and history. With data, ritual, storytelling, resilience, and transcendence in the mix, her gentle deconstructions of our feeble attempts to control the forces of nature and the courses of destiny reveal deeper poetic and somatic forms of insight regarding the unseen patterns we sense at play behind it all. An exhibition featuring her work within the idiomatic framework of the garden opens this week in Duarte.

artist flora kao

Flora Kao: In the Deep

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?

FLORA KAO: In my first job out of college, I worked 80 hours a week chained to a cubicle. Strategy consulting was so soul-crushing that I decided to carve out time for a Saturday morning painting class. I made a beautiful oil painting of boulders and mist at Torrey Pines State Beach. The title Serendipity reflects my delight in discovering this sublime scene and in finding my way to art-making.


What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?

I am a multimedia artist investigating the poetics of human relationship with the environment. I explore the psychological potential of constructed space. I examine our impulse to order and preserve in the face of the unknown and uncontrollable, anchoring moments of intense emotion through repeated action.

flora kao hope

Flora Kao: Hope

What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

I seriously considered landscape architecture. I spent most of this past year sourcing plants and landscaping with parent volunteers to transform Broadway Elementary’s barren, pandemic-neglected campus by planting green pocket oases for the children to enjoy.


Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?

I realized I wanted to make beauty a bigger part of my life. All the jobs in the arts required BFAs, so I decided to go back to school. Otis was such an inspiring, skill-building, mind-opening experience that I decided to focus on my art practice with a MFA at UC Irvine.


Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?

L.A. is a truly inspiring place to live. Gorgeous hikes, spectacular beaches, and garden refuges are accessible year round. The contemporary art scene is deep and diverse, with countless new shows opening every weekend. I admire and respect all the incredible artists, curators, and writers I have met in L.A. — I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

flora kao homeland

Flora Kao: Homeland

When was your first show?

At HAUS Gallery in 2009, my first solo show transformed everyday structures into systems of beauty. I installed a sound-activated forest of stringed cardboard tubes and styrofoam tortilla warmers. I showed a series of paintings inspired by the L.A. street grid, referencing the blueprint as a locus of dreams and the city as a web of overlapping paths. I created wall installations inspired by Southern California’s smog-tinged landscape and data-laden real estate market.


When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?

I am showing a giant origami lotus sculpture at the Geffen Playhouse through mid December. It’s a first sample from my new body of work Portal which responds to my grandparents’ deaths during the pandemic and Buddhist mourning rites. Centered on the ritual folding and burning of origami lotus, Portal asks, how do we heal after catastrophic loss? Portal culminates with a solo show at Launch Gallery in September 2023. I am currently installing Persistent Garden with Ginger Van Hook at Gallery 1820 in Duarte as well. Our installations, photographs, and sculptures explore the resilience of nature and growth despite obstacles. The opening is Sunday, October 9, from 2-5pm, with an artist talk Sunday, October 23 at 3pm.

flora kao sacred grove

Flora Kao: Sacred Grove

Website and social media handles, please!

IG @florakaoart

FB: @floratkao

flora kao homestead work in progress

Flora Kao: Homestead (in progress)

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Flora Kao: Portal




























































































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