Lucy Liu’s Little-Known Art Career

I recently discovered, to my pleasant surprise, that actress Lucy Liu, a Michigan alum, is also a talented fine artist who previously worked under her Chinese name, Yu Ling. Under this alter ego, Liu has sold and auctioned her work for hefty prices up to $70,455. Working with painting, sculpture, collage, ink, and a plethora of other media, Liu’s detailed, intricate work calls upon themes of love, lust, and vulnerability.

Liu has had experience in the art world since her teenage years, and has been featured in both solo and group art shows across the globe for almost three decades. Her work is rich in color and texture, and deeply intimate–thus why she only revealed her true identity in a book a few years ago. Liu explains that “it was incredibly liberating… it gave me a sense of truth in my art and how it was viewed.”

One of Liu’s notable works of art is a collection of books called Lost & Found, which features cutouts filled with discarded found objects. She jokes that people make fun of her for salvaging scraps such as soda tabs or pieces of string for example, but uses these objects as aa invitation for reflection.

Book 24 of Lost & Found

Furthermore, Liu also creates intriguing erotic paintings, styled after the shunga Japanese art of the 17th century. Such paintings depict women kissing, engaging in intercourse, or simply connecting as humans. Her paintings, rife with dynamic brushstrokes and vibrant color truly show her versatility as an artist.

Adieu (Forever Goodbye)


You Are the Bridge


72 Works

(All images from Lucy Liu)

The Appeal of Visual Surrealism

Have you ever seen a work of art that looked like it came from another dimension? As if it was a fragment of your worst forgotten nightmare? Most likely it is a surrealist work of art. The Surrealism movement began around the 1920s, and culminated with famous artists such as Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, and Rene Magritte, just to name a few. If you don’t recognize those names, I guarantee you aren’t the only one. Although Surrealism was a significant movement in the art world, it has remained relatively fringe to pop culture. Its avant-garde style is not as palatable as other art, and as a result, it takes a certain curiosity and taste to explore. However, it is by far my favorite art movement; not only has it produced some of the most visceral and intriguing works of art, it also evokes an entirely unique feeling in the viewer.

Plaza (Piazza) – Giorgio de Chirico

Imagine being a kid again, playing hide and seek with friends. You’re in a small cupboard, the perfect hiding place. You hear the seeker count down, and eventually they shout “Ready or not, here I come!” You can’t help but laugh on the inside: thinking about how they’ll never find you, and how impressed they’ll be when you win. Gradually, however, the darkness of the cupboard intensifies, until it’s as black as oblivion; a dark, empty void. You have no sense of time; it has wandered into the darkness and gotten lost. Has it been seconds or minutes? Maybe even hours? You can’t hear anything; no voices, nobody wondering where you are. The claustrophobia starts to set in as the cupboard shrinks. It’s hard to breathe, there’s not enough air. They’ve forgotten about you, they’ve stopped looking hours ago. Panic and anxiety run through you like electricity, you can’t stand it anymore: you have to get out. You burst out of the cupboard and take in a breath, like a drowning man breaking the surface. You hear voices coming towards you and suddenly your friends are there. They can’t believe you hid in there; they say they never would have found you. You won, but you can hardly enjoy it.

Son of Man – Rene Magritte

For me, surrealist art evokes that same feeling. A mixture of anxiety and some primal fear of the unknown, just like being in a dark, claustrophobic cupboard. I think this feeling comes from the unusual color palettes that surrealist works share, the strange juxtapositions and oddities that defy reality, and some third thing that can’t be explained, but is linked to the unexplored subconscious of the viewer. Surrealism is based on the concept of the dormant subconscious, and surrealist artists attempt to explore it through art; the result is a small glimpse into the bizarre and sinister underworld of our minds.

Atavistic Ruins After the Rain – Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali was especially known for his unique method in conjuring strange images. He would often sit in a chair and begin to fall asleep while holding a metal spoon. Right when he fell asleep, the spoon would drop from his hand and startle him awake. He would then paint the surreal images he had seen before slipping into unconsciousness. When looking at his works, I often feel like I’m in a waking dream: nothing quite makes sense and everything is a little off. It’s like waking up from a vivid dream that you can’t remember, and then realizing you’re still dreaming. You jolt awake, and you can’t stop wondering if you’re actually awake this time, or if you’re still dreaming.

(Image Credits: Google Images)

Maps as Art

If you handed me a printed map from a rest stop, I’m not sure I would be confident in telling you which direction to go. To me, physical maps are geographical puzzles you shove into the back of your car’s glove compartment. In the past, I never thought of a map as beautiful, let alone as an example of art; however, this perspective was challenged after a field trip to the Hatcher Graduate Library.

Instead of the normal lecture, my digital research class was treated to a brief tour of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library and Hatcher Graduate Library. Out of the numerous books, resources, and study spots, what caught my attention the most was something I would have never expected: maps. I was mesmerized by the Unique Perspectives: Maps from Tokugawa & Meiji Japan exhibit, which was on display until October 30th. While slightly faded, an array of swirling colors and intricate details captured my attention, and I found myself wandering back to the exhibit after class.

For a moment, I forgot about the stresses of essays or homework and was whisked away to another time and another place. Triangular mountains and waving rivers somehow made me feel at peace. While granting me historical facts, these displays stretched my imagination. All the lines and jagged squiggles weren’t meaningless marks on paper, but places, history, and art. I daresay the mere size and grandeur of some of the maps resembled priceless paintings. As someone studying Japanese through LSA’s Residential College program, I was also drawn to the uniqueness and artistry of the symbols. I imagined shiny black ink caressing the paper in gentle strokes, forming different characters with something important to say.

In moments I saw maps – and art – in a new light. I found myself no longer cringing at the series of puzzling lines, but captivated by the complexity and splendor the maps held. Now, I’m not educated on traditional map making rules, nor am I an analytic art critic; it’s possible my perspective of the display simply reveals my ignorance about maps. However, I viewed even the most simple of maps as anything but stereotypical or boring. This is my first blog post, and if a small trip to the library prompted me to see maps in a new light, I can’t wait to explore what other artistic treasures are in store during my journey here at the University of Michigan.


Unabashed Taylor Praise

Okay, so, Taylor Swift. I talked about her in a previous post but honestly I’m not ashamed I’m talking about her again. Why? Because she deserves it. And she’s been making me proud since 1989 dropped.

So I guess first is the album. I’m actually really happy with the way it turned out. I’m especially happy with the longer tracklist of this album, making it definitely worth the wait and a lot more accessible. Not a big fan of the opening track “Welcome to New York”, or you don’t really wanna “Shake It Off”? Well, good news for you, there’s 17 more for you to choose from. I haven’t listened to it enough to give a definite ruling on it yet, but I’m satisfied at the moment, though I’ll always maintain Red is her best record to date.

But really though, I have to admit, half the reason I’m satisfied as much as I am is because of “Blank Space.”

You’ve heard of “Blank Space,” right? Because it’s pretty dang good. Like…really good.

First, there’s the song. It’s midtempo, which is a rarity for casual Swift fans, but hardcore ones will know how well she can pull off a midtempo track (think “State of Grace,” “Tell Me Why,” “Long Live,” etc.). And “Blank Space” is no exception. Her lyrics are also on point as usual, being easy enough to remember to constitute a good pop hook, but also clever enough to surpass one-hit wonder status.

And not just the lyrics are clever, but the whole premise. It’s a dark-humor parody of herself, which actually doesn’t surprise me coming from Taylor – she’s not stupid and she does know everything people say about her – and she’s using her favorite medium to get back at everyone in a really clever and tasteful way.

But man, them lyrics.

Screaming, crying, perfect storms
I can make all the tables turn
Rose garden filled with thorns

I like this verse especially because of the rose garden image, which goes perfectly to my next point, which is the video.

This video guys. This video is it. And it’s why I’m not ashamed to talk about her after one post about her. Because she deserves it.

Now, okay, maybe she doesn’t deserve all the credit since she didn’t actually direct the video. But its no secret that she’s heavily involved in her creative process. And even if she didn’t have any say in how this video went, she wrote the song. The song is a parody of herself. But it also applies to every girl like Taylor, every girl who gets beaten down and ridiculed for being “boy-crazy” or “too clingy” or “too emotional” or any of the thousand ridiculous things girls get ridiculed for.

So, the video. In case you’ve been living under a pile of homework (which, okay, I’ll admit, is very plausible), a quick synopsis: boy comes to Mansion di Taylor, Taylor’s chilling with her cat when ding dong, she meets boy and smiles creepily, boy and Taylor do that dating thing in this abandoned castle thing. Boy texts some other girl, Taylor gets jealous and a little violent, cries a lot if her mascara is any indication, stands on a horse at some point, and scares away the boy because of her “emotions.”

Why I love this video is because the parody goes even further than a parody – it becomes a satire, akin to Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” Taylor isn’t just making fun of her haters, she’s doing exactly what they say she does and exaggerates it to show how ridiculous it is.

Which leads me back to rose garden filled with thorns. Okay, I’m gonna show off my English major skills a bit here and talk about why this line is so brilliant, especially in context of the video. So, if a girl’s a rose, right, she’s pretty, she smells nice, delicate, yada yada stereotypes. But then she has thorns…but she’s not supposed to. She’s supposed to be pretty, perfect. Pretty, perfect things aren’t supposed to have bad things like thorns. But roses are made with thorns…there’s no way to make a rose without thorns, unless you cut them off. They can’ come thornless. So it’s ridiculous to expect a rose to come without thorns.

Now, if you get the metaphor and go WAIT BUT I’M A GIRL AND I’M NOT EMOTIONAL I’M COOL WHATEVER HAHA I DON’T GET EMOTIONAL DON’T STEREOTYPE ME please don’t jump down my throat. I’m not saying all girls identify with this problem, or all girls are like Taylor. You don’t have to be emotional if you’re a girl, just like you don’t have to be emotionless if you’re a boy. But for those of us that are on the emotional side of the spectrum and do get criticized for it, well, this song comes as a much needed relief.

Because calling girls crazy for having emotions, for being normally jealous and sad and possibly even angry…well that’s not cool. And Taylor got it right.

Now, besides all that, I loved this video because of how absolutely gorgeous it is. From her outfits to the setting, the video is so artsy without being like “oh this is artsy because art.” I mean, there is that apple part that I get but not really, but other than that, it’s treated like a piece of art, with the colors and the set and saturation and I love that. Overall, it’s well made, and quality in music videos is something I’ve actually forgotten over the years, since Internet killed the Video Star.

So, there you go. My praise-rant on Taylor’s awesome video/song combo. You go for that 2-1 punch, Tay. I’m proud of you. You’ve grown and gotten complex and you tell those haters. And after, go Shake it Off. You deserve it.