Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thinking of Liza Lou

I am working on a sustained piece, "Faith", using hundreds perhaps thousands of murrini and millefiori to build a portrait. As I piece these murrini side by side, hour after hour, I have been thinking about Liza Lou. I saw the installation of her "Kitchen" at the Southeastern Center of Contemporary Art sometime ago, probably at least a decade ago. The millions of glass beads that embellish the environment is daunting.
Again, as I have worked on "Faith", I have been contemplating on Liza Lou and the rich embellishment to her environment with the beads. Doing a little research I found a quote by her which resonates also to my work, " For me, my work is a prayer, and so the doing of the work is its own dignity."

A former student of the San Francisco Art Institute, Lou describes her transformation from painter to beader: “I began as a painter and I walked into a bead store and it was just like a flash in my mind. I just thought, ‘My God, that’s the most amazing paint I’ve ever seen.’” She was “hated” for her use of beads and “mortified” her teachers and classmates, but her $500,000 “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation in 2002 helped silence some of those who believed her work wasn’t real art.

Okay, serendipity... As I continued my research, I find she has done some portraits with the beads. Another source, another reference, another Art Hero! Ureka!!!

Liza Lou’s portraits of presidents George Washington through William Clinton are created entirely out of beads and bordered in wide bands of gold beads to look like framed black and white photographs. To Lou, the “zillions of beads” used in the portraits symbolize “grand campaign promises of a sparkling future for America and the fulfillment of the American dream.” But there’s a fun side to the portraits, too, as Lou remarks, “It’s humorous to see men in beads.Herbert Hoover is not someone you associate with glitter.

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