As a boy in Cambodia, Eang Mao walked past the Buddhist temple every day on the way to school. As he looked around at the walls of the monks' quarters, he saw paintings depicting stories about Buddha and poems written in calligraphy. "They shook my heart very deeply," Mr. Mao remembers. This experience inspired him to practice drawing and painting by observing the work of the old masters, photographs, and the elements of nature around him.
At 16, Mr. Mao entered the monastery. As an apprentice, surrounded by the sacred iconography of Theravada Buddhism, he was able to observe and practice the painting, calligraphy, and other arts of the monks. Since then, he has continued to draw and paint Buddha's stories, scenes from traditional Cambodian life, and landscapes. After coming to Philadelphia, he depended on his art to make a living, painting beautiful signs for shopkeepers in Cambodian neighborhoods. He decided to continue his study of art at the University of the Arts, where he learned European art and contemporary design.
Mr. Mao has taught and exhibited paintings through programs organized by the Philadelphia Folklore Project, including the 1992 exhibition “Folk Arts of Social Change” and the 1993 exhibition “Giants, Kings & Celestial Angels.” His work has been displayed in numerous locations around Philadelphia.