By Keller, Julie
Art Business News , Vol. 28, No. 4
CITY OF INDUSTRY, Calif.-- Though his publishing company was founded only a year and a half ago, artist Cao Yong has a story that could fill many lifetimes.
He was born into poverty and political chaos in China in 1962. He started painting as a child to escape the persecution imposed upon him and his family by the government. Despite many hardships, including discrimination, selling his clothing and skipping meals for art supplies and having his portfolio and money stolen on the way to take the entrance exam for college, he was eventually accepted at Henan University. He received his B.F.A. in 1983 and volunteered to go to Tibet to be an art teacher.
He spent seven years in Tibet immersed in the cultural and natural beauty of the isolated highlands and even smuggled himself to Nepal to get a taste of freedom. His experiences inspired a series of paintings entitled "The Split Layer of Earth: Mount Kailas," which presented the taboo subject of the region's social and spiritual struggle. He showed this work in Beijing in 1989, and it garnered interest in Beijing art circles and attracted attention of international press. His success raised red flags with Chinese authorities, and police shut down the gallery and confiscated and burned his paintings.
This experience prompted Cao and his fiancee Aya Goda to flee China for Japan. Their turbulent, often-life-threatening, eight-month journey was recorded in Escape, an award-winning book by Goda.
"An artist can not just paint by hand, he must paint by heart," said Yong. "My experience in China has enabled me to understand the world and people in depth and breadth. It has also developed the genuine appreciation of sincerity, kindness and beauty, which are what I am trying to express in my paintings."
In Japan, Cao continued to paint while working several part-time jobs to survive in the free-market economy. Eventually, however, he became a leading mural artist, and his other work caught the interest of several prestigious galleries, museums and the Japanese press.
Inspired by his success and looking to grow, Cao immigrated to the United States in 1994 and traveled throughout America to gain inspiration for his work and to discover the country's landscape and people.
Due to his success in America--his work was sought out by many collectors, and some original paintings were sold at auction at Christie's--he founded the publishing company Cao Yong Editions Inc. …