Instructor draws on life experience

Whitney Fair, freshman graphic arts major (left), takes some advice about drawing from Josie Mai, assistant professor of art.

Whitney Fair, freshman graphic arts major (left), takes some advice about drawing from Josie Mai, assistant professor of art.

Going on an African safari’s and volunteering in Africa is something Josie Mai, assistant professor of art, has already achieved five times.

Mai has made the trip to Africa through the Habitat for Humanity helping and encouraging young African children. Her work in Africa consisted of teaching children how to draw and feeding and holding babies.

“The most awkward thing was going into a room of like 30 babies and having it be completely silent because the babies there don’t know what it’s like to be held for a long period of time and then put down,” Mai said.

During high school, Mai recalled Nelson Mandela was still in jail and apartheid was the rule in South Africa.

“For the first time in my life, I felt injustice in my bones,” Mai said. “I started following the news with the help of Amnesty International and my favorite bands. I was making art then, but the still-lifes, portraits, and landscapes couldn’t have been further from this truth I was beginning to sense in my bones.”

This was a catapult to her volunteer work and she said Africa has helped mold her life and artwork.

For the 2006 summer, Mai plans to take a trip back to Africa with a group of students as volunteers. Photos of Mai’s trip can be viewed at her self-created Web site,

Mai’s art also consists of various types of media. In her office, Mai has art from her favorite artist Faith Ringgold to a collage consisting of a young Ethiopian boy from Africa and his story.

Mai’s definition of art is, “it is a highly personal form of expression.”

Mai’s grandmother’s collections and antiques were an inspiration for a gallery of artwork titled “You can’t take a U-Haul to Heaven.”

The title was taken from her grandmother’s response to her various collections of items.

On Oct. 4, Mai, along with the new art faculty, held a show in the Spiva Art Gallery. Some of Mai’s work were be featured here.

Mai was born on Nov. 27, 1971 in Kansas where she graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School. She attended Kansas University for undergraduate school and acquired her master’s degree in Fine Art and Painting from Parsons School of design in New York.

She takes inspiration from such various leaders as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi.

“[Each of these leaders] fought for important concepts,” Mai said.

Mai said she has much inspiration for her artwork from various sources. She continues to pursue her visions and beliefs through her artwork, and with contempt satisfaction she also said that she, “is never satisfied as an artist.”