Interview: Liz Tran
Liz Tran is a graduate in Print Art and Painting from Cornish College of the Arts. She exhibits both nationally and internationally.
Channeling subjects such as dream imagery, imagined landscapes, geodes, outer space and The Big Bang, Tran explores the shapes of nature with the infusion of fantastical, pulsing synthetic hues. The psychedelic visuals are harvested from the place where inner-verse meets outer-verse, where optical misfires combine with a vacuum pull moving at the speed of light. Through painting, sculpture and installation, she creates atmospheres that aim to activate.
Public collections of Tran’s work include the City of Seattle's Portable Works Collection, Baer Art Center, Camac Art Centre, The El Paso Children’s Hospital, Harborview Medical Center, The King County Public Art Collection and The Child Center.
She has been awarded multiple fellowships and grants, including a Grant for Artist Projects (GAP) from Artist Trust, Clowes Fellowship for residency at the Vermont Studio Center, the Nellie Cornish Scholarship and residency at The Camac Art Centre in France, The Baer Art Center in Iceland, Jentel, Millay Colony for the Arts and The Center for Contemporary Printmaking. She resides in Seattle, WA.
First of all, your paintings and installations bring us so much joy! Thank you for adding beauty to this world. Tell us a little bit about your background. Were you always involved in the arts?
Thank you! I was drawn to the visual arts as far back as I can remember. I came from a mid-size university town (Eugene, OR) that didn’t have much to offer in the way of galleries and museums. However, crafts were heavily supported and making objects with one’s hands was the norm. Working with my father in the wooden boat business taught me that I could make anything, no matter how complex. It also taught me from an early age to develop a thick skin and a strong work ethic, qualities that are often needed in the arts industry.
How did you get into installation work? Was it a natural progression?
Numerous trips to artist residencies outside the country forced me to think outside the box in terms of materials. Working on the large wooden panels that I was used to wasn’t an option, so I began working with large rolls of paper and later, fabric – materials that lend themselves more easily to travel. It was during one of my residencies in Iceland that I realized it would be a mistake not to address and interact with the phenomenal volcanic landscape, which led to cut paintings that worked directly with the environment. The installations have since evolved from being an element in the natural world to the creation of entirely encompassing spaces.
How do you come up with the color and imagery in your pieces? What inspires you?
Both have evolved naturally. Imagery is a direct result of current feelings, experiences and observations and is often so deeply personal that I refrain from sharing, other than through the imagery that I project into the world. My palette has grown significantly brighter over the past decade. As I discover more paints, mediums and materials, it continues to evolve.
Personal psychology is the impetus to the majority of my work. I am motivated by emotions – processing and projecting feelings through painting.
What artists or creatives influenced your work over the past few years?
Nick Cave, Katharina Grosse, Shoplifter, Judith Scott, Yayoi Kusama, Wangetchi Mutu and oh so many more. I am also greatly influenced by the work of my friends and contemporaries and a huge list of musicians. Music plays a large role in my studio practice.
What is it like being an artist in Seattle? Tell us about your local art community.
Artists in Seattle tend to be supportive of each other rather than competitive. I’d say the arts community is for the most part accessible, generous and genuine, both arts facilitators and artists themselves. The most difficult part of being an artist in Seattle is the lack of space. The city is changing rapidly, and space is expensive and hard to come by. This has pushed many artists out of the city.
Congratulations on a beautiful installation at Aqua Art Miami. Can you tell us about this project?
Traveling Planets is an adaptation of a previous installation hung at The Seattle Art Museum’s PACCAR Pavilion in the Olympic Sculpture Park. The Lobby at Aqua is much more intimate, which made the installation take on a different feel. The painted orbs consumed the room, complimented by slowly pulsing, color changing LED’s, creating an energized and immersive environment, a space where people want to linger and observe the evolving display of color and form.
It was a pleasure to work with Phylogeny Contemporary and Art Miami for this project.
What are your plans for 2017?
In January, I’ll be the first artist in residence at ZINC contemporary, using the gallery as my studio. While working, the curtains will be closed. While not working, the curtains will be open with the lights on, creating a fishbowl effect. Passers-by will be able to follow my process, from beginning to end. My next solo, “Jawbreaker” takes place at ZINC in March. There are a handful of additional projects in the works for 2017 that I can’t quite talk about yet, but if you’d like to keep up to date, you can follow me on Instagram at @lizannetran or sign up for periodic updates on my website.