Experimental Relationship: Chinese-born artist Pixy Liao dismantling relationship stereotypes

Born and raised in Shanghai, Pixy Liao is a photographer currently residing in Brooklyn.

Her photographs, sculptures (e.g. Soft-Heeled Shoes), and music videos directly refer to Liao’s way of dealing with her daily experience as a female artist.

Growing up in China, Pixy Liao’s concept of love was getting engaged to someone older, more mature, and powerful, who could be seen as a mentor and leading figure.

After graduating in Graphic Design, Pixy moved to the United States to pursue an MFA in Photography at the University of Memphis, where she met her Japanese partner Moro, who is 5-years her junior.

Moro was studying in the music department, learning jazz: the couple met during an international student orientation.

Pixy Liao, Hush, Baby . From the series Experimental Relationship © Pixy Liao. Courtesy of the artist.

“At first I asked Moro to model for me, then things progressed and we became a couple”, Pixy says during our Skype conversation.

Experimental Relationship started in 2007 as a way of exploring how culture influences sexuality, subverting gender expectations with a playful, tongue in cheek approach.

The power dynamics between the two has shifted over the years, from Pixy playing a dominant role (as shown in the Hush, Baby photo above) to finding more of an equal balance with her partner.

“Maybe after we both graduated, there was a period of time where our relationship was in an unstable status. It was almost like Moro was rebelling against me and our dynamic, and I was uncertain about my way of treating him”. (Pixy for Refinery29)

Pixy Liao, Relationships Work Best When Each Partner Knows Their Proper Place.  From the series Experimental Relationship © Pixy Liao. Courtesy of the artist.

The photographs aim to explore the alternative possibilities within heterosexual relationships as a way of showcasing what would happen if men and women swap roles.

“In China, girls are normally encouraged not to work hard and rather to find a man to rely on; conversely, men are told to man up and to be brave”, Pixy says.

Departing from conservative and heteronormative societal views, Pixy decided to display in her work what she genuinely likes. Each scene, although meticulously staged, appears to be a genuine representation of normative gestures e.g. giving a full body-massage, sharing breakfast, whispering in each other’s ears.

Pixy Liao, The King Under Me. From the series, Experimental Relationship © Pixy Liao. Courtesy of the artist.


Pixy Liao, Try To Live Like a Siamese Pair. From the series, Experimental Relationship© Pixy Liao. Courtesy of the artist.


Pixy Liao, You Don’t Have To Be a Boy To Be My Boyfriend. From the series Experimental Relationship© Pixy Liao. Courtesy of the artist.
Pixy Liao, Homemade Sushi. From the series Experimental Relationship© Pixy Liao. Courtesy of the artist.

For more info, visit Pixy’s website, Instagram, or Twitter.

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