A Talk with Lizzy Cross

On May 13, 2013 by Andrea Magee Steedman

Lizzy Cross may be young, but she has big ideas.  Her conceptual and participatory art is as sophisticated as any and we see big things in her future.  She is currently being featured in Fresh Works 2013 at the Harrington Gallery in Pleasanton, an open juried show that features fresh artists from the greater Bay Area.  I wanted to get inside that head, so I asked Cross a few questions.  Learn more about Lizzy Cross on her website.

 I guess my first question is about your projects.  It seems thMatadero Carpet 2012ey all have a conceptual and participatory element, I was wondering what your inspiration is?

I consider my need to make conceptual and participatory work to originate from growing up in the Silicon Valley during the internet boom. My father being a physicist/electrical engineer working in hardware components of computer connectivity, cultural values praised interconnectivity and instilled trust in the replicability of the scientific method.

Inspiration for the current work I’m making comes from loss of some extremely significant people in my life and the renewal of other relationships, a desire to hold onto the ephemerality of connection.


 And what art or artists inspired you to create your current line of inquiry in art?

 I feel influenced by a number of artists I came in contact with while I was living in New York. Rudolf Stingel’s worn and stained studio carpet installed covering an entire wall in the Whitney Museum in his 2007 exhibition at still haunts me today. Also in 2007, I was lucky enough to be sent to the Venice Biennale as artists’ gallery representation and was greatly encouraged by Sophie Calle’s epic investigation “Take Care of Yourself”, in the French Pavilion, in which she had 107 women interpret a break-up email she received.

I worked with an amazing group of artists at The Project, which was at the time a contemporary art gallery on 57th St. Spending long hours with the art and getting to know the artists personally, my perspective has been forever altered. Looking back, I believe many of the artist’s expressive and sometimes “low-brow” use of materials, particularly Kori Newkirk’s beaded curtains, may have empowered me to investigate the pixilation of latch hook rugs.  Paul Pfeiffer’s digital erasures were clearly influential in my obsessive process of making the BookMark’s series. Stephen Vitiello’s sound collections and the LFO Speaker Drawings encouraged the archivist in me. I admire the subtle power of his work, the meditative qualities that are so profoundly affective.

What is your background in art, how did you find your way to where you are now?

As my parents like to tell it, I had an innate understanding of color interaction as a small child, that they trusted me to decide for them whenever color related question came up. I grew to love painting, and went on to receive my BFA in painting at RISD. But while I was there I began to question the medium. I wanted the medium and the process to carry as much meaning as the final imagery.

About a year after graduating, I found myself an archivist at The Project, exposed to all kinds of wonderful art in all its forms. This job suited me well, I delighted in organization, as well as the somewhat tedious task of cleaning and altering digital scans of photo transparencies. When asked, I took on the job of directing the gallery. It was a wonderful opportunity, full of art-world celebs and travel, and it also allowed me to see that I was working on the wrong side of things. I wanted to concentrate on my own art.

CUNY Hunter’s Visual Art MFA program afforded me intensive time and freedom to shift my work into a more clinical and investigative, and, in my opinion, more honest form. Before I finished the program, opening myself to this level of authenticity pulled me back to the Bay Area where I feel more in contact with my natural way of being.

 What types of art did you make before your current work?

I made studies of people, their desires and habitats, diners and fashion in particular. Found objects were compiled in ways that I thought would attract particular populations with pleasant familiarity. Feeling like I was living a cliché narrative, easily relatable, the works became journalistic in nature and then soon became fabricated evidence of stories that played out in my head. These brought me back to the essence of mark making, the indexical proof of existence and interaction.

 What role do you think the hand of others plays in art, in what ways do they enhance or change it?

The way I see it, ‘the hand of others’ is unavoidable. We are our experiences; we are so highly influenced by others that, on some level, their ‘hand’ is present in any work we make. Including marks made directly by others is a way to embrace this rather than deny it.

I am wondering what role you think participation has in the future of art—do you think by involving people in art it makes them appreciate it more?

Surely a collective unconscious has played a major role in the art we study and keep around, and will continue to do so. But other than that, I imagine relational aesthetics, as we know it, to be a passing art fad.

Those who participate in the making of the work absolutely appreciate it more, but I’m not sure how much it adds for the viewer of the aftermath or documentation. Maybe it depends on the person and their value of empathy? The feedback seems mixed: excitement from feeling connected to the work or disappointment that the artistic “magic” has been dispelled.

What role do you see the artist playing in this type of art?

Bible BookMarks Psalmseditor/archivist/scientist

The artist is both releasing control to allow for chance and personal freedom and at the same time the artist’s role is manipulative via the unavoidable placement of one kind of arbitrary constraint or another.

How would you define your art—conceptual, participatory, performance …  or would you rather not label it?

As with all words, labeling places limitations but also, and more importantly in my view, helps communicate. I’ve grown fond of the label “Introvert Social Practice”.

What commentary would you say you’re trying to make with your art?

Commentary is fairly subtle in the work, just hinting at social concerns. I’m questioning the time we spend in our many types of virtual worlds, what our social realities have become today. With the abundance of conflicting data available to us, what information is trustworthy?

What types of art would you like to make in the future, and what else is on the horizon?

My dream project for the future would be to find a way to hook up a giant scanner to a car to scan detailed perpendicular images of marks left on the freeway. Or maybe Google already has this data and will open source it.

Right now I’m working on a 35 image series of book-marks from a bible I found in (scanned and returned to) the lounge of my sister’s Acute Neuro-Rehabilitation Center. I’ve been editing the scans for over two years now, and I’m still motivated to finish the project. I also have a ‘3-D’ latch hook rug in the works. I wrapped my coffee table in latch hook canvas and am filling it in with the help of visitors. When we’re through I plan to cut the rug off and stretch it in the manner of an animal skin rug.

What do you do when you’re not making art?

My goal is to find a way to make art all the time, and I’m maybe getting too close to this compulsive ambition to be continually artistically productive. But I do take breaks to meet up with friends for long discussions over tea. I definitely post too many pictures of my cuddly pair of cats on the internet. And sometimes I get to ride bikes to eat sushi with my boyfriend. I also try to take advantage of living next to Stanford University by attending open lectures and spending time at the Cantor Museum.

Anything else you’d like to share?

This already feels like way more than anyone would want to know about me (I’ve been known to overshare).  Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to say all of this!

Cross’s Art In Action:


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