Six Questions for Mai Ryuno


By Jean Vengua

Mai Ryuno is a conceptual artist and educator who brings some much-needed playfulness to the Monterey community, along with her own installation and performance art that addresses social issues. Her studio Play Full Ground is a rich resource for artists in Monterey and the  surrounding areas.

Ryuno uses everyday life as inspiration and creates the art of everyday life. She believes that art is for everyone and every day regardless of one’s artistic talents, supporting everyone’s creative journey to find their inner child, joy and freedom and make everyday art through her approach to life and teaching. Voices contributor Jean Vengua conducted this interview.

Vengua: Where did you grow up and how did that (or any other significant experience) influence your art?

Ryuno: I grew up in Fukuoka, Japan, where social life is vibrant and vital. This influenced me to become an artist as an experience maker and create interactions between me and the audience/participants within my installation and performance artwork. Not so religious, but naturally philosophical aspects of the country have influenced my way of looking at the relationship between my art, life and myself as well.

Additionally, not the location itself, but my upbringing has a huge influence on my art. My interest in social issues came from my father having been a supporter of the Japan Communist Party and my other interest in fashion and design came from my mother with a keen sense of details in them. Also, having been given a lot of freedom and treated as an independent individual regardless of social expectations by my parents allowed me to be who I am and express myself freely.

My participatory performance at Women’s March Monterey Bay in 2020 can be seen in Short Video: Let’s Celebrate Women.

Vengua: What’s your creative process like?

Ryuno: As a conceptual everyday artist, my creative process is embedded in my everyday life. To me, the process itself is art and all of my life activities require the creative process of thinking and then, doing. The way in which I treat my daily action makes it either art or just a routine. I try to do as much art as possible in my everyday life with curiosity, playfulness and positivity as expressions of myself.

Playful Resilience was a theme during the pandemic and I shared my sheltering in place via digital videos/social media at Mai’s Playful Resilience Playlist.

Vengua: What puts a damper on your creativity? What do you do — if anything — to remedy that?

Ryuno: If creativity were just mental, I would have no problem having ideas. I often say to my husband, “Listen, I got an idea!” And then he says, “that’s not surprising . . .” However, realizing the ideas into reality is often difficult with my limited resources: time and money. (I have so many ideas and some of them are big ones!) I try to be resourceful and create something with what I have although it may not be in the ideal scale, form, location, etc., while seeking ways to make my dreams come true in the future.

“Untitled” (self portrait) in 2008 — this was my graduate thesis exhibition: The Art of Everyday Performance Video.

Vengua: Does age factor into your creative process, and if yes, how?

Ryuno: Yes, for good. For my art, quite literally, I am the artwork. In a sense, the more knowledge, skills and experience I have in my life, the richer the artwork becomes. For the last 20 years, I’ve changed my art practice from the traditional/product-based, primarily printmaking, to the contemporary/conceptual, installation and performance. This change made my art truer to who I am. At the same time, my art has taught me about myself. It’s the process of learning, unlearning and relearning through the creative process for me to keep evolving with more depth and richness in meanings and purposes every time I create and learn.

Woman’s Body/Butterfly Life Drawing for “Singing the Body Electric” theater play at Hartnell College in 2016.

Vengua: What are you working on, currently, and what’s inspiring it

Ryuno: I am working on clarity, focus and consistency. This means that I am trying to find what I possess that is truly valuable to share with others and contribute to this world. I have so many interests, love for doing something new all the time, thus can be very easily distracted. I am passionate about art for my expression and a vehicle for learning as well as an alternative education for creativity as my way of sharing, making changes in our society and also learning. Lifelong learning is what’s inspiring me as my friend once said, “Mai’s career should be a student.”

Play Full Ground is my art studio + social entrepreneurship since 2017. Website:

Vengua: What’s your favorite imperfection?

Ryuno: Being a human.

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About Jean Vengua

Jean Vengua is a Filipinx American visual artist and writer, author of Marcelina (Paloma Press 2020), Prau (Meritage Press), The Aching Vicinities (chapbook, Otoliths Press), and Corporeal (Black Radish Books). In the mid-1990s, with Elizabeth H. Pisares, she formed Tulitos Press and published and edited the Debut: The Making of a Filipino American Film by Gene Cajayon and John Manal Castro, and The Flipside by Rod Pulido. Her chapbook, The Epic of Waiting, is forthcoming from Boukra Press. Vengua is staff writer for the nonprofit Asian Cultural Experience (ACE) in Salinas Chinatown. Her newsletter, Eulipion Outpost is at