Lirong Zhou Grayson was born in Shanghai, China in 1973, when Chairman Mao ruled and artistic expression could shorten your life expectancy. In this repressive society, Lirong’s physician mother and chemistry professor father sought to rein in their free-spirited daughter, who mostly cared about drawing. Be practical, they urged, and so she dutifully studied international business in college and later was an executive secretary for an international corporation. But Lirong yearned for a different sort of life. At age 25, she left China for a teaching job in Fiji, and a year later made her way, practically penniless, to the United States, with no clear plans or destination in mind beyond a determination to pursue art.
Following brief stays in California, Missouri, Maryland and Syracuse, accumulating bits of money toiling at local Chinese restaurants, she enrolled at City College in New York City. To make ends meet she combined an accelerated class schedule with further grueling restaurant shifts, more than once falling asleep on the subway after midnight on the way back to her tiny Brooklyn rented room. One of her proudest moments was approaching the unsuspecting Genius Bar with a stack of crumpled five and ten dollar restaurant earnings to purchase her first Apple computer. Her life was hard, but she was heading in the right direction.
In the ensuing years, she took a more traditional path: graduation from college, U.S citizenship, marriage to an American, and motherhood. Her English improved, though like many native Mandarin speakers she still transposes "she's" and "he's," and she has morphed into a true idiosyncratic New Yorker. What hasn’t changed is her passion for art. Lirong experiments in representational, expressionist and abstract styles. She paints portraits, farmhouses and barns, Manhattan townhouses and Shanghai cityscapes. At heart, she is still the free-spirited girl who loves to draw.
The paintings displayed on this site are not Lirong’s final contribution. A searcher and perfectionist, she is always focused on the next project. We proudly offer print samples of her splendid works thus far along her artistic journey.
I am Joel Grayson, Lirong's 14-year-old son. I founded Lirong Art as a summer project because I am curious about entrepreneurship and Mom paints. I took out a loan, filed for an LLC, created the website, scanned and photoshopped the paintings, and figured out the legal work and taxes. I am learning a lot and glad I started this! Currently, I run all the business operations, Mom paints, and Dad contributes some writing. My other projects are on joelgrayson.com.