Kevin Kao

Kevin Kao

Associate Professor, Art

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Kevin Kao is an artist and educator creating work addressing individuality, the body, and the collective experience. Drawing from a background in biology and ecology, he sculpts figure-ish forms as an intersection of nature, taste and objectification. He maintains an active artistic practice and exhibits work nationally, including a recent solo exhibition, with Breath, at the Kranzberg Arts Center in 2021.

Born in California, Kao has lived and worked across the country, attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville for graduate studies. Prior to joining Furman in Fall 2021, he served on faculty at McKendree University and Coker College. At Furman, he is responsible for teaching and developing the curriculum within the 3D disciplines of the Art Department. He particularly enjoys teaching ceramics and sculpture as necessary frameworks for students to comprehend and represent the world around them.


  • M.F.A., University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • B.S., University of California, San Diego

Research Interests

As cultural hybrid, my work addresses perceptions of individuality, the human body, and kitsch through the lens of the Other. I am fascinated by the complex relationship between individual and group, often creating work in multiples as a metaphor for assimilation. These ceramic multiples - a collection - trace and expand on notions of belonging, loss of individuality, and the power of group influence. Drawing from ancient art histories, I use humor and double entendre to facilitate a dialogue between representation, nature, and flesh.

In the larger context of my work, I’m interested in the ways sculpture frames history, social value, and authorship. I continually question these ideas through a uniquely clay perspective: examining how the material has been handled historically, and how I can use it to address body, taste, and objectification.

Honors and Awards

  • 3rd Place, Miami University Young Sculptors Competition, 2021
  • Artist Support Grant, Regional Arts Commission, Saint Louis, 2018, 2020
  • Ford/Knauth Fellowship, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Artist Guild, 2018
  • Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award, Northern Clay Center, 2014
  • Challencelor’s Initiative Award, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2014
  • Best in Show, Positive/Negative 28, Eastern Tennessee State University, 2013