Tianhua Mao's Museum of Tomorrow

March 08, 2016

The Museum of Tomorrow may be an unapproachable destination but Tianhua Mao is its very special curator. This morning the New York-based illustrator lets us take a peek into her wacky, Disco Worm filled dream worlds.

What do you use to create the illustrations? Is it primarily digital?
Tianhua Mao: Yes, most of my works are digital. But I do a lot of hand drawings before I turn to computer. I test different textures and brushes on paper to get the right effect. Then I scan the textures and finalize the illustrations in computer. It gives me more freedom to paly with color.

What was the idea behind Museum of Tomorrow?
Museum of Tomorrow (MOT) is not a real museum. I created both the dreamlike environment and the visitors. I did this series right after I finished my MFA Program. As a young artist, I am ambitious, and self-doubted in the same time. I’m the creator of Museum of Tomorrow (MOT), and I’m the curator of my own dream. The name Museum of Tomorrow (MOT) is derived from TODAY ART MUSEUM, a contemporary art museum in Beijing. I went there a lot when I was an undergraduate student. We all live for today, and “tomorrow” is just an idea. Therefore, Museum of Tomorrow (MOT) is an unapproachable destination.

What is Puffisland?
A Brief History of Puffisland is a picture book that tells the evolution story of Puffisland. Puffisland is a deadly quite island floating in a virtual space. There is a crater in the center of Puffisland. It puffed out different molecules over a period of time. The molecules fell into the ground and became nutrition. They grew into bigger creatures. The creatures grew their own fruits, which are like eggs. They fell on the land and develop into different moving creatures. The different creatures merged with each other and became new spices. The creature became more devise over the time. At a certain point, a super creature emerged. The super creatures did not merge with other spices; instead, they feed on other spices. The population of the super creatures increased rapidly and they took over the island. When they were slaughtering other spices, there came the second puff. This time the crater puffed out a giant Disco Worm. The Disco Worm crawled over the land and ate everything it could reach. Every time it swallows a creature, its glow became stronger. There is always delighted fog surrounding the Disco Worm. It ate up everything and starved to death.

Its body gasified into the air. The island became peaceful and clean like nothing has happened. A Brief History of Puffisland is my graduate thesis. I spent one entire year on this project, and really enjoyed the feeling of letting the giant worm eat up all the stuff I created over the year. The Puffisland story has not ended, and I’m work on the second episode.

What artists and types of art influence you the most?
My favorite artist is Luigi Serafini, the author of Codex Seraphinianus. In this book Codex Seraphinianus, he introduced a bizarre fantasy world with his unique narrative. He and his work inspired me a lot; A brief history of puffisland is an homage to him. And I’m really obsessed with scientific illustrations. Love the peace and elegance of them!