Kristen Liu’s Dollhouses: Vibrant and Freaky Caricatures of Society

Kristen Liu is a 23-year-old illustrator and painter living in Brooklyn. Her vibrant illustrations reflect everyday life situations that echo her fascination with weird phobias, bad television and the lives of her friends. The sometimes erotic scenes are often host to more than one narrative that interconnect and take you on a journey with the characters that she creates. We got in touch with Kristen to talk about her art.

What are the upsides and downsides to the artist’s life?

Upsides: you get to do something really fun, interesting and challenging and you can (potentially) get paid to do it. Even if you hate what you’re making, you’re never bored. You’re doing something that can be both completely trivial and fun and completely serious and (occasionally for some) really important to society.


Downsides: It’s difficult. You put a lot of yourself into your work so when it’s criticized or when it isn’t good enough for your own personal standards, it can be really hard to see the point in continuing.


Do you have a mentor or an idol artistically? 

In terms of artists who inspire me, it’s really difficult to name all of them. I think the way Alex Katz paints portraits is so striking. Grandma Moses and Henry Darger are a couple more art idols and there are still so many more who are alive and working now that I can’t list them all (also I’m too embarrassed to list living people, I don’t want to be too much of a creepy fangirl.)


Where is your favorite place in the world and why?

I’ve never really thought about a favorite place. I don’t know if I have one yet.

LiuWong_weather002I have an imaginary safe pod-room in my head that is very comforting so maybe when I find a real version of it, that will be my favorite place.


What has been your most significant achievement or proudest moment as an artist?

This is another really difficult question because I feel like I haven’t done anything especially amazing yet. I will say that one of the coolest, most flattering moments I’ve had was to be able to do a show with Luke Pelletier and John F. Malta at New Image Art recently. I felt so amazed that I didn’t have to sneak my stuff onto the walls. That’s actually how I feel with every show though (laughs). 


Do you got have other great passions besides art?

Of course! I love to read! D.H. Lawrence is my favorite author and the dark sensuality of his novels is so intriguing to me that it has definitely influenced how I depict (and even think about) sex.

It’s really difficult to do (mostly because it’s so expensive) but I also love going to the opera. It’s such a transformative experience that really helps you feel like life is so much grander than it actually is for a couple of hours.


If you weren’t an artist, what do you see yourself doing instead?

I’d either be a miserable business person making way more money or a poor excuse for a teacher. Either way I’d definitely be pretty bitter. Or maybe I’d just open a doggie daycare centre and play with dogs all day. I’d be terrible at running a business though so it would tank in a second.


Do you have a favorite piece or series that is closest to your heart?

I have done one piece that was more blatantly personal than most of my others and it made me confront some stuff while I was working on it because it was such a literal translation of something. It was really uncomfortable for me to make, and I felt weird having people see it since it was so personal.

When it was purchased I was relieved because I didn’t want it hanging around, but I was also glad that I made it because I felt like it had to be done. It isn’t my favorite work by any means, but I felt like it was one of my more personally significant paintings.

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