Red, Yellow, Blue, 2011, by Liz Markus
Billy Baldwin Eastman Apartment, 2013, by Liz Markus
Yellow-Green, Light Gray, Dark Gray, 2011, by Liz Markus
Lee Radziwill in Nina Ricci, 2014, by Liz Markus
Blue, Orange, Red, 2011, by Liz Markus
Jane Birkin Red Chair, 2015
There’s something electric, alluring, glamorous and ephemeral about Liz Markus’ work, whether she’s portraying the denizens we all love from the beau mode — Bianca Jagger, Jane Birkin, Lee Radziwill, Brigitte Bardot — or beautiful interiors from renowned decorators. Here, we talk to the New York artist about her work and process.
The art bug bit when…
I was 15. I had been dead set on becoming a veterinarian but changed tracks after taking a mandatory semester of art. I loved both the studio practice and the history of art. I couldn’t get enough.
My very first art love…
Probably Rauschenberg. I grew up in Buffalo and my parents would often take me to the Albright-Knox Museum, which has an excellent Abstract Expressionist and post-AbEx collection. I think it was the colors and the brush strokes full of raw energy that attracted me to the giant Rauschenberg combine painting. I wanted to do that too.
My signature style…
Has been called Andy Warhol meets Helen Frankenthaler. I stain my canvases so that the colors bleed, drip and collide but my references are very pop culture. People often say they can see my sense of humor in my work.
And how I came to them…
In 2006 I became obsessed with painting hippies — in particular, a long haired, bearded, aviator-wearing hippie head. I started to use unprimed canvas so that the paint would have a tie-dyed feel. I’ve stayed with staining canvases because of the risk and chance it involves. Mistakes must be worked with rather than corrected and though I’m very good at controlling the bleeds, I still never exactly know what the paint will do as it’s blending with other colors. I’m excited every time to see what the results will be.
Favorite subjects to paint…
For the last few years I’ve focused on paintings of women. I began with the huge socialites of the 20th century, Babe Paley, CZ Guest, Slim Keith, basically Truman Capote’s swans. I find these women fascinating. Though they exuded perfection, it often hid a quite tragic life. I also painted the girlfriends of the Rolling Stones, the Jet Set and am currently using imagery from contemporary fashion, a never-fail source of inspiration for me.
When I get the artist equivalent of writer’s block…
I started looking at fashion.
A good work of art should always…
Offer a transcendent moment to the viewer, or a least make them think “That’s totally cool.” That might be the same thing in fact.
And as an artist, I could never be without…
Materials I can make something with, art supplies, a computer or at least some fake flowers and a glue gun.