Resides: Brooklyn, NY
Work: Contemporary & Fiber
I’ve been a fan since my first stumble into the messed up world of artist Kristen M. Liu. Liu makes you feel like you’re harboring a morbid sense of humor gone bad — her scenes are oddly funny, detailed in paint colors that I pray come in packs called ‘Highlighters gone to the Dark Side’.
Venture further into the mayhem and join us mid chat…
You have a wonderfully morbid sense of humor — artistically, it’s such a defining part of your signature style. It’s this cool blend of generational influences – a 70’s sort of tiki color palette with a 90’s underground comics/zines vibe. That’s what I see, but what styles or artists are you influenced by?
Thanks! I love that you see tiki-influences in my work. In terms of “style” (referring to how I draw, use pattern, etc.) I really love to look at American folk art in addition to the obvious cartoon and comic influences.
My mom was a textile major so she always brought us to craft exhibits. I grew up looking at Gee’s Bend quilts, Grandma Moses paintings, Native American pottery and weavings, the list could go on forever.
I love the graphic quality of work from artists like Alex Katz and David Hockney. More contemporary artists like Clare Rojas and Margaret Kilgallen are also HUGE inspirations. The first time I saw their work I knew I wanted to make paintings that could be even a fraction as visually impactful. And of course, a shout-out to my favorite artist in high school, Salvador Dali. Even though I’ve obviously strayed off course from his aesthetic approach, his work, along with all the other Surrealists I copied in my teenage years, will always continue to influence me conceptually.
Talking about aesthetics, I noticed you’ve been working with the same color palette for quite some time. It catches your eye immediately and lures you in. What colors are your staples? Why those particular colors?
Well I cycle through what colors will be dominant in my works but I always tend to go for hot pinks and pale mints (even if there are just touches of it). I grew up with a lot of Polly Pocket so you can blame that.
I read somewhere that you coat your pieces with resin once they are done – first off, expensive process – but the resin gives the pieces such a effortlessly hazy effect, which I think is perfect for the imagery. It’s like waking up in a glossy dreamlike state and witnessing something that perhaps you wish you’d hadn’t seen…that’s a lie. You make those florescent murder scenes so bait worthy, I’d always want to open that door to mayhem and take another peek. How did the process of coating your paintings in resin come about? And is that ‘out of body’ – outside looking in perspective created intentionally?
I actually got the idea to coat my pieces from my professor, Kenichi Hoshine (who is an AMAZING artist btw and also one of the coolest dudes out there). I liked the way it looked so much the first time, that I’ve been using resin ever since. Since I flat paint, it smoothes everything out and gives it a really nice finished quality. It also helps the neon colors glow- if you ever see my pieces in person you’ll understand why I use resin!
And yes, I intentionally want to have a very voyeuristic feeling in my work. I watch a lot of bad crime shows and I’ve always been terrified of the idea of someone stalking me so I try to recreate that creepy sensation. Also, sometimes don’t you just feel like you’re looking at your own life and everything is happening separately from you? It’s interesting, it makes you feel completely detached and scared and as quickly as you noticed it, it’s gone and you’re just being paranoid.
Yet those aspects of voyeurism combined with the overt sexuality and non-threatening color palette really draw you into to this curious feeling of sensuousness as the scenes play out the violence in almost a casual after-the-fact way. What’s the story behind your consistent theme of chaos and mayhem?
As I mentioned earlier, I watch a lot of crime tv. I’ve always been fascinated by violence, not only from personal experiences with it but because mankind’s potential to do great evil is so interesting to me conceptually too. We’re all capable of really great things and also really terrible things and because I’m a glass-half-empty kind of person I’m more interested in exploring that aspect of our natures. It’s just a fact that people can be really shitty at times (and I’m no exception) so even though I paint all these terrible things I always want the people to have slightly blasé reactions to all of the horror around them.
Oh, please don’t leave out the sex that is sometimes happening in the midst of murder. To which I guess is a great transition into the nudity that exist in these mini stories. I noticed that the sex isn’t always the center of the story, the nudity is sometimes just the state they’re in.
A few reasons I paint naked people a lot. First reason- it’s fun! I love to paint boobs and butts and dicks! They’re really funny and the human body is so interesting to look at that I can’t help myself. Another reason I use a lot of nudity is because it can enhance a figure’s sense of vulnerability or empowerment, depending on how they are posed. Also by making a figure nude in a situation where it is unusual for them to be naked helps add to the surreal quality of their environment.
A lot of that happens in your sketchbook – which is pretty amazing. I really like that in addition to posting your paintings online, you often share your sketchbook drawings. Does the process start there and then move over to the paintings? Or are they separate beasts?
They’re usually pretty separate. I actually only started keeping a sketchbook after I graduated because I knew I would get obsessive about making it look “right” but since getting one, I really appreciate it as a place to just do stupid, fun drawings where I don’t have to worry about whether or not something is good enough since it’s just for me.
You’re amazing fiber artists as well – how does that fit into your shows?
Unfortunately it hasn’t factored too much into my shows :( Since I’ve graduated, I have a lot less time to experiment and since galleries primarily want paintings all my spare time is spent doing that. I have a day job so I only have time to work on art weeknights and weekends so yeah my social life can get pretty dead. I’m hoping to eventually get more time to really play around with different mediums so we’ll see!