Sit down for five minutes in the home of Yao-pi Hsu and her passions become clear. Lining the walls of Hsu’s Santa Clara home are samples of her photography. From panoramic landscapes to water reflections, Hsu has spent the last decade perfecting her craft – and it has paid off.
When the Triton Museum of Art announced the winners of its recent Salon at the Triton: A 2D Art Competition and Exhibition, Hsu was one of two Best in Show winners, and the recipient of a 2016 show at the museum – an honor she wasn’t expecting.
“I’m really very happy … I feel happy now that I have my own show,” she said. “That is a big step and to this day lots of my art friends they say, ‘oh Yao-pi you got the best of award.’ I feel very lucky.”
Hsu, a resident of Santa Clara for the past 50 years, emigrated from her homeland of China to Taiwan as a young girl to escape Communist rule. Then, as a young woman, Hsu and her then-fiancÃ© (now husband) immigrated to California to attend University of California, Davis where she studied biology before embarking on a career at Stanford. But after 34 years in the lab, Hsu became unfulfilled with her work and was eager to retire.
“Before I retired, I kind of found a dispassion more and more … Once I retired, I just put myself in full-hearted,” she said. “I have daughters out of state [Oregon and Washington] and I wanted to go visit them and grandkids, and I have my mother here who I have to take care of so between this, whatever the time I had, I devoted to photography.”
Hsu, who takes painterly photographs and uses minimal Photoshop manipulation, said she’s still learning and sees every opportunity as a new challenge to better her skills. Whether it’s taking photographs from moving vehicles or determining the right shutter speed to give water an ethereal effect, Hsu is simply happy clicking away with her Canon Rebel T3i and finding beauty in unexpected places, like parking lot puddles.
“There are a lot of things in the water that we don’t really see so instead of looking up, I looked down more,” she said. “The light changes, the wind blows and the reflection changes with bright days and sunny days and now I look at certain things and I know. Now I go with friends on trips and when we come back they say ‘where did you take this? We didn’t see it.’ I said, ‘you all look up and I looked at the shimmering spot’ … As long as you create something beautiful, people can like and enjoy looking at, and it gives people a good feeling, why not? … If you set your mind and you wait for it, you can always find something. That’s what makes it so interesting for me.”
Hsu’s winning piece, “Flow and Splash,” as well as the third place finisher, “Beyond the Surface” are on display at the Triton Museum of Art, 1505 Warburton Ave., until Feb. 8. Some of Hsu’s photographs are available for purchase in the Triton Museum store. Visit www.yaopiphoto.com to learn more and see a list of her upcoming exhibitions.