On the eve of her new solo show, Hard-Pressed, at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles, former cover artist Kristen Liu-Wong shares her thoughts on scale and size, her largest work to date, working during the pandemic and her appreciation to good health. 

How are these works different in terms of style and application from your previous works?
This is the most ambitious body of work that I’ve ever attempted for a variety of reasons. I have never made a single body of work this large and making sure everything felt cohesive, both visually and conceptually, was a challenge. I tried to push myself technically as well ─ in addition to making some of the most detailed work I’ve ever painted, I explored using different lighting techniques, color palettes, compositions, cropping, and visual tricks that I have never attempted before. I want this work to show that I can grow in new and different ways.

Do you have a favorite piece in the show or one that was particularly challenging to work on, and why?
My largest painting on panel (titled She Burned All Night) is definitely my most challenging piece, not only because of its size and complexity but also conceptually. I knew I wanted to make a piece that would be visually and emotionally jarring; since The Wicker Man (1973) is one of my favorite movies and Roe v. Wade had just been overturned, I decided to make a piece inspired by the current situation. I’m still completing the piece at the moment but so far, the most difficult part for me was to draw the scared animals that will be burning in the limbs of the wicker woman. Even if it’s an imagined situation and no real animals or people are hurt, it can be emotionally challenging to depict cruel or violent acts, but I also think it is necessary to push myself to make work that isn’t always comfortable or easy to look at. Refusing to discuss or portray things that can be upsetting accomplishes nothing.   

The Burden

What part of the artistic process do you enjoy?
I enjoy almost all of the process! It’s exciting to come up with a new idea for something and then figuring out how to execute it is even more fun. My favorite part though is when I’m finishing up a piece and I get to see everything come together! 

Did the last two years (during the pandemic) change your practices or routines?
I don’t know that it necessarily changed my practice, since I work from a home studio anyways, but it was definitely extra isolating to have to quarantine, especially at the beginning of the pandemic before the vaccines became available. It obviously gave me a greater appreciation for my good health, but it also made me appreciate social events more. I’m naturally rather introverted but after a year of staying shut in, some small talk with acquaintances was actually rather nice, haha.

Kristen Liu-Wong's Hard Pressed will be on view at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles from September 17—October 22, 2022.