Four days to Girls Art Now! Organized in collaboration by Society 6 and Sexy Beast, the event will feature 50 female-identified Society 6 artists. In preparation for the day, we sat with illustrator Kristen Liu-Wong and picked her brain about her personal relationship with art.
How did your find your way to art?
My mom is an elementary art school teacher so she introduced my sister and I to art at a young age. If we weren’t making the art project samples for her classes, she was bringing us to the library and museum free days. I was never the prettiest girl, or the best at sports but I was good at school and art, so I really took refuge in those two areas. Eventually after deciding I was not disciplined enough for med school, I thought art school would be a good option and decided to apply instead of going to a more traditional college.
What are the inspirations for your paintings? What do you hope to communicate through your work?
It’s hard to say because it varies from piece to piece, but I tend to focus on sexuality, violence, death, grief and loss, and the duality and complexities of human nature. Like most art, my work is a reflection of myself and my world and I hope just hope that viewers can see themselves and their own experiences echoed in my work.
What have been some challenges of being a female artist? How do you think challenges are being resolved and responded to?
I’ve definitely been dismissed more easily because I’m a woman or I use “cute” colors. I don’t want to mention too many specifics because I try to keep things professional, but I’ve had people assume I was the artist’s assistant as opposed to one of the artists. And then I’ve also had people have problems with the content of my work—for example, I recently made an illustration for Unbound (a feminist sex toy company that promotes sexual health, pleasure and education) along with four other female illustrators. Despite the fact that there was no nudity, and no explicit allusions to sex, our ads were still denied by the MTA even though anyone who has been in the subway knows that they allow racy ads that openly talk about sex, erectile dysfunction, and boob jobs. I guess you can only be explicit if you cater to the male gaze. Luckily a huge outcry was taken up following their rejection and they have now agreed to run the ads with some “alterations” (though we’ll see if they actually stick to their word). Instances like this show me that there can continue to be change and we don’t need to be content with what we have/are allowed to have—let’s start making opportunities!
Do you have a community of fellow women artists that you collaborate with and go to for advice? How does that fuel your art practice?
Yes of course! I’m incredibly lucky to know and have had the opportunity to show and collaborate with countless amazingly talented women who are also creatives. It’s so cool to be able to work with women you admire and respect and who are killing it too.
Can you give us a little preview of what we can look forward to hearing from you at Girls Art Now!?
I’m going to be on the panel discussing how working as an artist can be an incredibly vulnerable career in which rejection and criticism are inevitable, and how to overcome those self-doubts and slay it in the workplace. It isn’t easy to be confident (at least for me) but art has been one of the greatest joys and comforts in my life and if I had stopped the first time someone said I sucked I never would have made it past the first year of college. It’s a really fine line you have to walk because I feel like it’s healthy to be critical of yourself- if you think you’re already the best you’ll never grow or learn anything but you also can’t let those doubts cripple you and you have to trust that what you make has some worth because if you don’t give a shit about what you make why should anyone else?