neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

Resides: Brooklyn, NY

Work: Contemporary & Fiber

Links: Website/Tumblr/Instagram

Still Life with Pineapple_neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

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 weaving, 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.

Waiting_neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

Talking about aesthetics, I noticed you’ve worked with the same color palette for 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 an 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 fluorescent 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?

neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

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 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 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.

neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

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 weeknight 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!

Surviving The Armory Show Art Fair

Three years ago when my best friend asked me to go to the Armory Show with her. I, of course, not being part of the art world, had no idea what the Armory Show was. She actually begged me to go, she encouraged me to branch out and experience something new, but somehow she forgot about the time we were in Paris and I had to spend 8 hours with her in the Lourve. Now I’m not opposed to seeing some great art, for brief interludes of time, but 8 hours, “Really?”  Needless to say she finally convinced me to go. And what happened you may ask. She did it again, 6 hours of art, no eating, no breaks just hours of endless art. There were times I was just outright rude, but what do you expect, she refused to feed me. Through it all, “The Art Lover” was in her glory. In the end I did actually enjoy the show and have done it for the past three years, each year getting better and better.

The art itself varies in all aspects. You can see paintings, sculptures, performance art; some things can’t actually be defined and confined to description unless you’ve seen them. I’ve never been one to be fascinated by art per se, but it really does get interesting to see all those works of art and try to figure out what could have possibly been going on in the artist’s head. The pieces can be so dramatic sometimes and quite lighthearted on other occasions. I believe last year was the year of neon. It was everywhere.

Armory Show article


Then there are pieces from this  year’s show like “Let The Light Enter” by Charles White (1918-1979), drawn in 1961 that truly drew me in and made me appreciate art for all it’s worth. There was nothing overly dramatic about the drawing or its design (it was drawn with charcoal and Wolff crayon), but his subject looked at me and captured my mind. Each stroke was with purpose, every inch of the drawing consumed me and all the sudden art meant something. I remember having a similar feeling when I first saw the Mona Lisa. It was like seeing an old friend and smiling to yourself about all the fun times you had, just a flicker of memory, but a delightful one, something never to forget.

Over the years, the Armory Show has turned into quite an event for us. While I remember flashes of year one, but year two is when I really got into it. The trick is to mentally prepare yourself for a long day.  So have a decent breakfast before you head out to the shows…don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing time of the year, but it’s long and you need to know it’s not the type of thing you do for an hour and then move on. Which brings me to my next rule: wear comfortable shoes.  I know you see people fashionably arriving to the show and there’s nothing wrong with looking good, but trust me, if their heels are over 3 inches, they aren’t serious. Chances are you’re planning on visiting other art fairs during the day – New York is an asphalt jungle and nothing will take you down faster than trying to traverse the art fairs in cute heels. Know when to break for a meal, lack of food will cause you to forget just about anything, even if it is great. Personally, I keep granola bars and juice packs in my bag for quick power snacks. Most of all, know when to call it quits. If it all starts to blend together, you’ve probably had enough for the day. Save some for tomorrow or even next year – shut it down – go have dinner & drinks and pat yourself you the back and call it a wrap. You survived.

“Let The Light Enter” by Charles White (1918-1979)

“Let The Light Enter” by Charles White (1918-1979)

And while going to the Armory Show every year with my best friend is a great time, it also has been a time that I’ve learned something new about myself. My patience has definitely gotten better, but my appreciation for art has truly grown and I can honestly say I too am now an art lover. I don’t always understand it or get what the artist is trying to convey, but I can appreciate it. And in the end that’s all that matters, because art is not about understanding, but more of a feeling.

See you next year!


article by Dawn Williams