Get to know: Kristen Liu-Wong

In anticipation of our first ever release with the amazing and acclaimed Kristen Liu-Wong, we sat down with the talented artist to learn a bit more about her life and her art.  Take a look at some of her spectacular works and read the absolutely wonderful interview below:

Where were you born and where are you now?

I was born in San Francisco, CA and I now live in Los Angeles.

What are your first artistic memories?

My earliest “art” memory is of my drawing of fish at a fish food barbecue.

How has your style evolved from over the years to now?  Have you always dealt with the same themes?

When you see my early work you can clearly see its connection to what I do now but would like to think that I have gotten more ambitious, not just technically as far as painting and image-making go but I would also like to think that my exploration what I am addressing is more complex and I feel my ability to express those themes has grown as well. I am still drawn to the same subjects from my early work but I have also become more comfortable with who I am as a person so as a result of that, I feel like my work has been able to become more personal too.

Could you tell us a bit about your work and this week's release with us, "The Burden?"

This piece was originally painted for my 2022 solo show “Hard Pressed” at Corey Helford Gallery. The show, which had opened when we were all still reeling from the pandemic, was an exploration of the internal and external pressures that we have to contend with everyday. At the time I had been reading “The Stranger” and wallowing in existential angst and simultaneously I came across Franz Stuck’s painting “Sisyphus.” I felt inspired to make my own Sisyphus painting for the show since it had begun to shape itself into a show about pressures and burdens and there is no bigger burden than that of existence and the eternal struggle to find meaning in an often meaningless world. In Stuck’s piece the figure is impossibly strong but the flesh is tortured, weary and monumental in its state of near defeat. For my interpretation of this iconic figure, I recast Sisyphus as a powerfully built woman, straining but still defiant in her battle upwards. The ambiguous boulder has been replaced by a bundle filled with the all the trappings that make up modern day life: a stuffed hippo from my childhood, a magic 8 ball representing the uncertain future, bills, a phone with text alerts, birth control pills representing the specific reproductive burden that women carry, a caged bird, etc. Crows watch on in amusement while a squirrel, holding their own small burden (in this case an acorn), watches on in sympathy, acting as a reminder that everyone has their own shit to deal with.

What is a normal day like in the studio for you?

It can vary from day to day depending on what job or project I’m working. When I’m preparing for a big show I mostly just paint all day and night long. I’m definitely a night owl and not a morning person so I often work late- I like the quiet and solitude of the night and how you can really lose yourself in your work in a way that can be more challenging with the distractions of the day. I typically wake up around 8:30 to 10:30 (depending on how late I stayed up the night previously) and I try to get all my admin stuff out of the way before I get into the actual art-making since I don’t like to interrupt myself once I’ve gotten going on a piece. There’s a lot of administrative and logistical things that you have to do as a freelance artist that people don’t even necessarily think about- in addition to actually making the work itself, you have to answer endless emails, photograph and video work, edit those images, update your site, run your online store, pack the orders for that, design and source your own merchandise, communicate with numerous clients simultaneously, run your social media, I could go on forever. The business side of it has been a huge learning experience for me and after 10 years of doing it, I am still learning new things and fucking up occasionally.  

What is the hardest part of creating a work?

The hardest part (and sometimes the easiest part) is often coming up with what to paint in the first place. It has to come naturally and authentically and some pieces come easier than others. When you do something you love for a living you have to protect that love for it and make sure you don’t become jaded or stop challenging yourself to grow so balancing the need to make a living with the practicalities of being a working artist can also be difficult. In this field hard work and great art don’t always necessarily mean success and the definition of success varies from artist to artist and what even constitutes a success can change. A sold out solo show doesn’t mean you don’t still need to make rent  or  you have health insurance so you have to keep things in perspective and remain persistent in the face of failure.

And what is the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding part is being lucky enough to be able to do something you love for a living. I know how privileged I am to be able to do this as my career and I sometimes have to remind myself of that when things are getting tough.

When you're not working in the studio, what are you up to?

Reading, going on hikes with my pug, smoking weed and watching Bravo.

What can we look forward to from you for the rest of 2024?

I will be participating in my first show in Boston at LaiSun Keane Gallery in November! It’s always exciting to show work in a new city and my partner Luke and I plan on going out for the opening since we’re both in the show so it should be a good time!

"The Burden" is an 18" x 24" edition of only 75 copies and will be available beginning at 1PM PST on Thursday, May 8th in our shop.