Mai is Australian born of mixed heritage and lives and works on Tharawal Country. She received her Bachelor of Arts / Asian Studies from the Australian National University (1991) with a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Studies from the University of Sydney (1993). In 1994 she spent a year in Vietnam studying Vietnamese language at Vietnam National University and Vietnamese Art History and Life Drawing at Hanoi University of Fine Arts; and in 1997, completed her Master of Arts in Visual Art from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University . In 2017 she received an Australian Government RTP scholarship to undertake a Doctor of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong (current).
Mai’s first exhibitions were held in Manila, Philippines – Transit Lounge (Arrivals-Departures) (1996), and Hanoi, Vietnam – E Chong: A Bilingual Installation with Incorrect Translations. Working in oil on canvas for the next ten years, her imagery became consciously figurative within surreal settings that overlaid stereotypical Australian culture with Asian icons and waterscapes as their unifying element. Mai returned to installation for a 2006 commission by Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, creating 3-dimensional mongrel dogs as a metaphor for cultural exploration and her identity, using papier mache to salute Southeast Asian folk crafts. The controversy generated by the “skins” of Mai’s Pho Dogs generated her performance/installation piece, The Burning of Godog at the opening of Nam Bang! curated by Dr Boitran Huynh-Beattie for CPAC (2009). While the mongrel dog has become a cultural trigger for Mai, and for those reading her work, equally it explores narratives that are extremely personal and self-reflective.
In 2014 Mai was commissioned by Wollongong Art Gallery to present a major solo show (curated by Gina Fairley). Bridging over 15 years of Mai’s practise, Beyogmos (“beyond the dog cosmos”) synthesized her intensely personal navigations through abstruse political landscapes questioning constructs of identity by drawing on a range of mediums. From 2014 a new character named Vomit Girl became dominant in her work, propelling Mai to reconnect with Vietnam. Late 2014 and 2015 she returned to Hanoi for residencies working with CICF Copyright Agency in the ceramic village of Bat Trang, and ACCA Viet independent curatorial group (working with Muong Studio Hoa Binh). Unpacking the context of Vomit Girl’s illness inspired her to undertake a Doctor of Creative Arts (DCA), titled, Beyond Diasporic Trauma: opening up an intersection between Contemporary Art and Folkloric Practices in Vietnam.
Mai Nguyễn-Long is represented by Art Atrium, a Vietnam Foundation Ambassador, and President Vietnam Centre – Australia Chapter.