Published on June 17, 2020. Liz Zhang is a painter and printmaker based in Charlottesville, VA. Her work is characterized by the use of figures to explore empathy, alliance, isolation, and coexistence. She seeks to create implied narratives through the subtle interactions of the figures with each other and with their environments. Liz exhibited at Welcome Gallery in October 2019.
In the Working from Home series, Charlottesville artists are sharing about their work and life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Liz is our sixth featured artist.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from Yorktown, VA and I graduated from UVA in 2019. I just finished a fifth-year fellowship in the UVA art department. Lately, I have been making paintings on fabric and paintings on paper that I cut out. In these recent works, I have started to pull from family stories that have been passed down to me, which range from the 20th century revolutionary politics of China to mundane anecdotes of the home. I am interested in what happens when these stories are stripped down into their component parts and rearranged to become like symbols and myths.
2. How has the pandemic changed your daily life?
I work from home part-time, and I’ve lost income from another part-time job I’m no longer able to do. At first all of the changes were stressful, but I’ve gotten used to things now. I’ve enjoyed being able to spend a lot of time reading and always getting enough sleep. The weeks have started going faster and faster. The hardest thing for me is that things are mostly online now, and I wish I didn’t have to be so dependent on my phone/computer for everything—work, talking to friends and family, and knowing what’s going on in the world. I’ve been glued to the news because of everything that’s been happening.
3. Has it changed your practice?
Because I’ve had to move from working in the studio to working at home, I have been making things less. When I do make things, it’s less about making an artwork, and more about working with my hands. So I’ve spent a lot of time mending sheets and clothes. I’ve also found the lack of studio space an opportunity to switch gears to reading and researching, which I find really valuable.
4. Whose work are you drawn to right now?
Currently I am drawn to the work of many textile artists and ceramics artists that I see on Instagram. My art education didn’t focus much on craft, and I am interested in the ways that craft integrates into life in ways that “fine art” doesn’t. I love seeing artists wear handmade clothes and use dishes that they made. Especially during quarantine, I find it inspiring that artists have shifted to making things at home for the home.
5. What is inspiring you/bringing you joy these days?
I started playing this computer game that I remember my sister playing when I was really little, and which she let me play probably twice. It’s called Caesar 3, and it’s a city-building game from 1998. I never play computer games, but it’s been nice to pass the time playing this game that gives me so much nostalgia. It’s got beautiful graphics, including this isometric perspective that I’ve often used in my paintings, which has made me wonder if it somehow subliminally influenced my artwork!
Images courtesy of the artist.
The opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the artist and do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of NCAI.
See more of Liz's work on her website.