Actress Lucy Liu Is Also an Artist—and She’s Having Her First Museum Show in Singapore

Liu's practice involves plucking trash off the street and giving it a new home in books.

Lucy Liu attends the 70th annual Tony awards in New York City. Photo: WalterMcBride/WireImage/Getty Images.

Actress Lucy Liu is best known for her on-screen personas—as O-Ren Ishii, the samurai-wielding member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad in Kill Bill, or as one-third of the rebooted Charlie’s Angels girl-squad, or as Dr. Joan Watson on the current TV series Elementary. But nowadays Liu—who is also a serious artist—is making headlines for her first museum show.

Lucy Liu, Lost and Found. Courtesy of the artist.

The 50-year-old Queens, New York, native is part of a two-person show with Shubigi Raoat at the National Museum of Singapore titled “Unhomed Belongings.” The title refers in part to Liu’s practice of picking up pieces of trash off the streets and affixing them into books. Although the books are finely bound and made of high-quality paper, they too are castoffs, rescued from an Italian printing house.

Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller in Elementary (2012). Photo: Best Possible Screen Grab/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Liu has been making the reliquaries since 2012. “It has gotten to a point when I’m filming, people will hand me stuff in a ziplock bag,” she told the South China Morning Post ahead of the museum opening. “The idea is to find a home for things that have been discarded” she said. “Once they were placed in the books, they seem to have found a place. They become quite pristine, almost framed.”

The show also includes a dual-sided photo-collage, titled Velocity, that Liu made in response to the September 11 attacks. The artist took the photographs of the New York City skyline from Battery Park, a reference to the physical site of the attacks, while the collaged fabric and skeins of paint grafted over top allude more to the emotional and psychological effects. A tightly bound string on the back of the canvas holds several objects in place—a reference to Congolese symbolic traditions and Japanese “wish trees.”

Lucy Liu, Velocity [front]. Courtesy of the artist.

Liu’s Twitter feed over the years shows her trying her hand at everything from printmaking to sculpture, and looking effortlessly artsy in paint-splattered jeans in film clips for Hunger magazine and the Guggenheim’s studio sessions. And unlike some other celebs who only take up a paintbrush between seasons or tours, Liu has an impressive resume that includes shows at Cast Iron Gallery back in 1993, LA’s Purple Gallery in 1997, and two years studying art at the New York Studio School, from 2004 to 2006.

See more of Lucy Liu’s work, on view at the National Museum of Singapore through February 24, below.

Lucy Liu’s Seventy Two in “Unhomed Belongings,” installation view. Courtesy of the artist.

Lucy Liu, Velocity [back]. Courtesy of the artist.

Lucy Liu and Shubigi Rao at “Unhomed Belongings.” Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Singapore.

Lucy Liu, You Are the Bridge. Courtesy of the artist.

Lucy Liu, Except Sometimes I (2013). Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of “Unhomed Belongings.” Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Singapore.


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