Every month, we choose one of our favourite creatives to TAKE OVER Beautiful Bizarre Magazine’s social media accounts for a day. In December 2020, we asked Los Angeles-based painter and illustrator Kristen Liu-Wong to fill us in on her greatest sources of visual inspiration. She admitted that it was pretty challenging to distill her creative crushes into a list of just seven. Nonetheless, she was quite the trooper and came up with a diverse range of artists who make her heart skip a few beats.
It’s quite possible that you may have missed Kristen’s awesome artsy recommendations the first time around. Now that the dust of the holiday season has settled, maybe you have a bit more free time in your schedule. Great! Please grab a warm beverage and tuck into this cool recap of the creatives that make Kristen say, “HECK YEAH – this is exactly why I heart ART!!!”
My name is Kristen Liu-Wong. I’m a painter and illustrator based in Los Angeles. I’m originally from San Francisco and I graduated from Pratt Institute with a BFA in Illustration in 2013. Since I moved to LA in 2015, I’ve been working full-time in art. When I’m not making art, I love reading, watching trashy reality tv shows, and playing with my pug, Rooster.
I had a ridiculously difficult time picking which artists to share with everyone. Narrowing my choices down to which work of art to share per artist was even more challenging. It may seem silly, but I almost felt guilty about cutting certain artists out of my TAKE OVER. The work of so many creatives out there has been foundational to my own. I’m sure there are still new artists and works to discover in my lifetime. Right now, in this moment, these are the 7 artists and their works that inspire me the most. I hope they will inspire some of you today.
Kristen Liu-Wong // “Snacktime” (2018). I like certain types of art for particular reasons. This piece is special to me because I feel like I succeeded in making a truly playful and lighthearted image. I tend to favor my edgier work, but this is one of my more fun and irreverent pieces. We’ve been living in depressing times, so I hope that it lifts everyone’s spirits. It was especially fun to paint this image and it ended up resonating with a lot of people. This was one of those rare paintings where everything seemed to come together right from the beginning. I created this work of art for a show with Corey Helford Gallery that was titled “East Meets West”. I imagined it as a fun homage to the Eastern and Western cultures that are a part of my background.
Nobuyoshi Araki // “Untitled from Tokyo Comedy” (1997). Araki is one of the few artists who created images that I find personally arousing. His work plays with the line between beauty and decay, pleasure and pain, horror and delight, tenderness and debauchery. His erotic works are, of course, his best known. I also find his still-life photographs and his images of his beloved cat and wife to be deeply moving.
Jonas Wood // “Inglewood Listing” (2019). Jonas Wood is a true contemporary master. I love the way he composes his images and breaks them up into different planes. He uses multiple viewpoints to create work that is both visually challenging and just plain fun to look at. He’s so good at layering patterns. He makes extremely complex images that still manage to be refreshingly simple. Wood creates interiors that I really admire and has a great eye for details. I try to emulate that in my own work.
Toyin Ojih Odutula // “Picnic on the Grounds” (2018). Ojih Odutula has an amazingly complex way of mark-making and her images seem to undulate with movement. I particularly admire the way she captured the movement of the grass in the piece above and the tenderness and magic of this quiet moment between mother and child. She has such a unique way of drawing people and I love her sense of color, too. It’s quite different from mine, but I appreciate it when artists challenge me to see and think about color in a different way.
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi // “Tajima Seitaro Murders His Young Wife When She Refuses to Return to Him” (1875). Yoshitoshi’s work has energy, creativity and boldness that can’t be matched. He can make scenes of the utmost brutality still have an innate grace and intoxicating drama that makes the work come alive. I love the way his figures are drawn so expressively – toes splay in fear, lips curl in disgust, eyes become hooded with death. Yoshitoshi’s work is so much more complex than simple violence for violence’s sake, too. He was working through the horrors that surrounded him and using this (comparatively small) period of his work to exorcise the demons that he and his country were experiencing at that time. I also suggest looking at his collection of woodblock prints called “One Hundred Aspects of the Moon”. He had an exceptionally beautiful way of seeing the world.
Nicole Eisenman // “Tea Party” (2012). I remember the first time I saw one of Eisenman’s works in real life and it literally left me breathless. Her images always manage to feel epic and they contain such complex narratives that you’re forced to digest them on a deeper level. I love this piece for so many reasons. The perfect bunker lighting that she’s managed to capture, the sallow, slumping figures, the rich textures on the boxes, the giant spider web peeking out from behind the shelf, the lumpy dog curled in front of the boxes. Her work often centers around questions of gender, sexuality, and identity in the modern world, but with a satirical edge that makes it especially fun to explore.
John Hilling // “Burning of the Old South Church, Bath, Maine” (1854). This painting is one of my favorite folk paintings and I’ve used it directly as the inspiration for some of my work. The gigantic flames engulfing the church gives it heightened drama that makes it standout as an image. I love the way he painted the fire and I’ve studied and tried to emulate it so many times. Folk and outsider art is a constant source of inspiration for me. I admire how practitioners weren’t overly concerned with making “great art”. Instead, they produced work that often came from a pure creative impulse and a need to capture or record a moment in that person’s world.
Peter Brugel the Elder // “The Triumph of Death” (1562). I was lucky enough to be able to see this painting in real life at the Prado and it’s one of those pieces that gives you a lump in your throat when you finally get to experience it. His attention to detail and ability to depict incredibly complex scenes loaded with figures is so humbling. He made such a powerful and frightening image of death running rampant. In the people’s little faces of terror and despair, you see your own mortality reflected right back at you and you realize how ultimately unavoidable your own demise is.
This is the final image that Kristen Liu-Wong selected for her Beautiful Bizarre social media TAKE OVER. Thank you Kristen for compiling such intriguing visual stimulation for our art community – we appreciate your effort and generosity so much!