ace of swords
Find more of Cairo's work on Instagram @cairopaints.
Cairo Mo is a painter, farmer, and fledgling skater. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, they recently graduated Stanford University with a degree in Symbolic Systems and now work as a Machine Learning Engineer for a startup tackling wildfires.
Cairo first started drawing Neopets in elementary school, and started digitally painting at the age of 12. They took their first formal art class while a student at Stanford, which was an eye-opening experience into the world of fine art. Cairo has exhibited paintings in the Stanford Art Gallery and Mohr Student Gallery (Stanford, CA) and has been published in various art journals including Blacklist (Brandeis University) and Kunstkammer (Princeton University).
As a trans masculine person, Cairo practices art-making as a healing process. The embodied nature of physically painting, sewing, and making an image is a grounding experience, and one that Cairo uses to intellectually and emotionally mull over complicated feelings and ideas.
In their work, Cairo is interested in relationships between care and violence, their self and their body, and their queerness and their Chinese American heritage. The diptych “space and time” depicts entangled, chaotic elements of dogs, wildfires, and tsunamis, juxtaposed with the still quietude of an ancient place reclaimed by plants. With gestural strokes and playful applications of paint, Cairo creates the ambience of a film sequence to explore the force of violence and how seemingly emotionless things can contain and express a range of subtle yet intense feelings. In “T(een/eeth/estosterone)”, Cairo presents a meditation on teeth as a part of our skeleton that is visible from the outside, posing questions of identity and self.
Working in a combination of oil paint, gouache, embroidery, and printmaking, Cairo makes images about the vectors of our emotion -- what force the emotion carries and what direction it is aimed towards, whether internal or external. Cairo is particularly interested in the tension created when self love meets body horror, a contradiction that they find central to their personal trans experience. With an eye for bold shapes of colour and gestural lines of the human figure, Cairo draws unexpected comparisons with their paintings. In works like “19 self care tips to try out” and “euphoria”, Cairo depicts their own body in mythical, dreamlike settings, and imagined colours. Artists that Cairo cites influence from include Doron Langberg, Kei Imazu, and Jenny Saville.
When they’re not painting or avoiding painting, Cairo can be found drinking iced coffee, trying to make sourdough bread, or tending to their strawberry plants.