Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 22

from his father at their family's home in the evenings."
Liao's "capitalist" status prevented her from going to college,
but she studied in secret, hoping the government would one day
loosen its restrictions on postsecondary education.
She married a fellow artist, Sou Luo, when she was 21 and
gave birth to a daughter, Ling.
"China had a one-child policy, and Sou wanted a son," she
says. "Daughters were not valued, and Sou never gave Ling the
attention and love she deserved."
Even as she juggled work and motherhood, Liao longed to
go to college. In 1983 she was allowed to enroll in the Hunan
Province Art and Craft College and eventually earned a degree in
graphic design and photography.
She became a pattern designer for a towel factory, launched
her own fashion design company and taught art classes. Liao
divorced Sou in 1991 and moved to Shenzhen, where she thrived,
rising to the prestigious position of the city's director of painting
for the BoaAn Art Center.

"The Feast
of the Tiny
Mouse"
portrays the
hunger Liao's
family suffered
during the
great Chinese
famine, which
began in 1960.

PATH TO AMERICA AND FREEDOM
After years of planning her escape from China, Liao was
granted permanent U.S. residency in 1999 as an "Alien of Extraordinary Abilities." She helped her daughter secure a visa to come
to America and study at Purdue University in West Lafayette,
Ind., and they settled there. So as not to burn through her savings, Liao found work washing dishes in the university's cafeteria.
"I had worked so hard," she says. "I didn't think about all the
obstacles ahead of me and ignored the fact that I would have to
learn a new language and start all over in my 40s. I was so happy
to finally be in America."
Supporters helped her learn English and find better jobs
and opportunities. Within nine years, Liao earned two master's
degrees in art and became an art professor at Paducah School of
Art and Design in Paducah, Ken.
In 2011, she built the BiLan Liao Gallery in Paducah, where
she exhibited her works depicting the stories of her family and
their tragedies and triumphs.
She's also written a book about her difficult journey to
freedom.
"The artwork and stories in 'Diary of the Dragon's Daughter' follow my family's journey in China and offer an honest look
at the political, social and cultural issues of China," she says.
"Painting and writing about the painful chapters of my life was
extremely therapeutic."
Today, Liao lives in Norcross with her husband, Ken Scroggs.
She spends time with her two grandsons and concentrates more
than ever on her art, public speaking tours, events and the
development of a documentary and a feature film. Liao and
Scroggs open their home gallery for private viewings a few times
each year.
"I hope my story spreads a message of hope; that's what I
want," she says. "I want others to understand the strength of the
human spirit. That strength lives inside each of us. Even in the
midst of the most difficult times, never give up your dreams.
Never!"
Amber Lanier Nagle is a freelance writer living in Adairsville.

To learn more
about BiLan Liao
or to inquire about
tours of her home
gallery or speaking
engagements, visit
bilanliao.com.

In this painting,
young BiLan
Liao is depicted
studying in
secret. Her
factory-worker
colleagues
assisted her,
giving her
handwritten
textbooks and
violin lessons.

22

Georgia Magazine

July 2019


http://www.bilanliao.com

Georgia Magazine - July 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - July 2019

Contents
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 4
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 5
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 6
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 7
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 8
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 9
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 10
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 11
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 12
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 13
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 14
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 15
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 16
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 17
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 18
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 19
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 20
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - 21
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Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - July 2019 - Cover4
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