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Interview with Kristen Liu-Wong

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]os Angeles-based painter/illustrator Kristen Liu-Wong has a solo show at Corey Helford Gallery that opened last weekend and runs through Oct. 21. Entitled “Conflict/Resolution,” her new work features strong women in fourteen new acrylic and acrylic gouache pieces on wood that explore themes of violence, aggression, death and “the resulting chaos that can come with all of those human impulses,” with “battle scenes, wrestling matches, and jet ski getaways act as metaphors for the idea of conflict, both with others and with the dual parts of our own natures.” We caught up with Kristen for this Q&A about Los Angeles, childhood and tacos...

1. What's your favorite place to get a taco? 
I love going to El Zarape - they’re great, affordable, and are super close to my place!

2. What brought you to LA and what keeps you here?
I came out here because I wanted a change from Brooklyn after 6 years and my best friend was moving out here. Also, I knew a couple galleries here, so I thought I’d try LA. I decided to stay because I love so much about it - the weather is great, there’s a ton of beautiful places to see and experience, the people have been really cool, the art scene is fun and vibrant, you get way more apartment space than in NYC, etc.

3. Your paintings are a bit "skewed", or is it the world that is off and the paintings that are right?
My paintings are skewed because they depict my parallel universe that I’m still developing. I want something to be a little off about them and disconcert viewers.

4. When and where were you most happy? 
I think I’m actually in a remarkably good place right now! Of course everyone has their ups and downs but I’m able to do a job that I love and I also get to have the support of great friends and family. Nothing will be perfect but I’m living a great life right now and I’m really grateful.

5. What's the oldest thing you care about? 
Hmm that’s a hard one. I have a rare collector’s edition of “Rob Roy” dated to the 1800s from my friend Emily that was a Christmas gift and I think that’s the oldest thing I own and care about.

6. Tell us about your solo show at Corey Helford Gallery.
It’s my most ambitious solo that I’ve ever attempted and I titled it “Conflict/ Resolution”. It centers around ideas of conflict and aggression both from within and with others. I wanted to look at what happens when we give in to our violent urges and all the other aspects and results of it. Everyone has these impulses - we can’t ignore their existence, we can only learn from them and in doing these pieces I was attempting in some ways to come to terms with the realities of my own nature. What does it mean to be a person and how do you know if you’re a good person?? What does it even mean to be a good person? Not that the pieces are exclusively serious- they’re a little goofy too!

7. Do you have a lucky number? 

8. What kind of music are you in to? Do you listen to music when you paint? 
I listen to a lot of music and podcasts and I also play a ton of TV in the background. What I listen to really varies depending on my mood - when I need to relax it is definitely Enya or maybe Joanna Newsom or Nick Drake. I’m pretty all over the place - I like indie, rap, folk, rock, opera, world music.

9. Are animals people too? 
I kind of think of it as people are animals too haha. I’ve always been more comfortable with animals, they’re so cool.

10. When we interviewed Luke Pelletier, he said you were his favorite current artist. Do you agree, are you Luke's favorite current artist? Which current artists are your favorite?  What about past masters?
Luke’s the best and we constantly inspire each other - I respect and truly value his feedback! It’s been amazing being able to work so closely with him. In addition to Luke I currently am really into the art of Carlos Ramirez, Jonas Wood, Andrea Heimer and so many more I can’t think of them all. People are making some truly amazing work right now! As for past masters - Hokusai, Grandma Moses, Ed Ruscha, Tamara DeLempicka, Lucien Freud, it’s hard to limit it to favorites because there is an unending amount of great art!

11. What were you like as a child? 
I was a grumpy nerd, if I’m going to be honest. I’ve never been athletic (although my mom did force us to be on swim team) and I’ve always been a big reader who loved museums and hanging out at Borders, so of course I wasn’t especially popular either haha. I used to play a lot of imaginary games with my sister when we were really young where we would create different laws and rituals haha and eventually she wrote a story about these characters we made up and I illustrated it.

12. Could you give us one of your predictions for the future?
Watches that can project a hologram! TOTALLY POSSIBLE AND IT WOULD BE SO COOL!!

13. Got any shoutouts? 
Shoutout to my mom! She raised us as a single mother and has given me unending support with my art. I’m really lucky to have a parent that believed that it wasn’t a dumb mistake for me to go to art school even though we aren’t well-off and has supported every thing I do!


“Conflict/Resolution" is at Corey Helford Gallery through Oct. 21. Follow Kristen Liu-Wong on Instagram.

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