Ma Ly of Fresno was selected as the winning artist representing Senate District 14 in this year’s State Senate’s Contemporary Art Collection display, Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) announced, May 2. Ly’s painting, titled “The Garden of The Old Man,” will be displayed in the State Capitol through September 2018. Ly was chosen by an independent panel overseen by State Capitol Museum Curator Koren Benoit.
“I was speechless and my heart was pounding when the office of Senator Andy Vidak called me to let me know that they chose my painting,” said Ly. “I did not expect to place because it was a contest at the state level. This painting was primarily done for the Arts Alive in Agriculture Exhibition organized by the Fresno Arts Council last month at Fresno City Hall where it eventually received an Honorable Mention. It is a portrait of A. Vernon Conrad (1936-2016), former Fresno County supervisor and a lifelong farmer from Reedley.”
The painting is oil on canvas, measures 18 inches by 24 inches and depicts a large garden Conrad planted with his daughter, Carol with Campbell Mountain in the far left background. The source photo the painting is based was taken by Jennifer Lacey of Jennifer Eileen Photography. Lacey is a talented photographer and granddaughter of Vernon Conrad.
“I altered the background to show the mountain and turned the harsh lighting of a bright sunny day into a warm and appeasing before sunset atmosphere,” said Ly.
Ly is a French self-taught professional painter and art instructor of Hmong descent. He was born in Laos in 1970, and then moved to France where he lived for 32 years. In 2008, while visiting relatives in Fresno, he realized it was in Fresno he had the opportunity to make a living with his art.
“I never intended to become a professional artist,” explains Ly. “It’s only after discovering Fresno Arts Council in 2009 and showing in different venues, that I decided to open my own studio inside Broadway Studios in 2010. I stayed there four years before moving to M Street Arts Complex as my business was growing with a higher demand for art classes.”
He teaches art to children (from age 7) and adults at his studio, Ma Ly Atelier, located inside M Street Arts Complex in downtown Fresno. Ly has also taught at Fresno Adult School and Michaels in Clovis.
Ly has been the recipient of many awards. In 2016 alone, the Fresno Arts Council honored him as Artist Of The Year at its “Horizon Award” event, the Foundation @ FCOE honored him for his contribution to the art community at their FCOE Honor Gala and he won first place with “The Beauty and The Bee #2” at the Clovis Art Guild Fall Open Art Show.
Since 2013, Ly has been artistic director on The Art of Life project that pairs cancer survivors and local artists to create several pieces of art that are subsequently displayed in different locations in Fresno.
Drawing and painting comes easily to Ly; he has never taken art lessons.
“I have learned from books and video tutorials mainly,” he said. “My biggest sources of inspiration are museums. For me, duplicating other artists’ techniques has always been the key to improve my work and better create the ideas I have in mind. I have also grown, for my style is now very different from how I used to paint nine years ago.
“Although my approach, style, and treatment are contemporary, my work has definitely been influenced by European paintings from the Italian Renaissance through the 19th Century.”
Ly creates narrative and portraiture paintings, in a realistic style, with an emphasis on contrasts. He painted President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for the Fresno County Office of Education in 2013, the portrait of the late Fresno activist Betty Rodriguez, that is on display at the Betty Rodriguez Regional Library and a life size posthumous portrait of the Hmong leader General Vang Pao for his memorial service held at Fresno Convention Center in 2011.
A versatile artist, Ly additionally paints nature and animals. His award-winning paintings have been exhibited locally, including Clovis Veterans Memorial District, Fresno City Hall, the Fresno Water Tower, Chris Sorensen Studio, the Big Fresno Fair and now the state’s capitol.
For more information on Ly, his work or his classes, visit artbymaly.com or call 559-554-8551.