The many characters of Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu. That’s a name a lot of people will recognise – a title they’ve spotted in film and television credits, or the name behind a likeness they know. Maybe they’ve seen her in magazines, or recognise her warm, freckled face just because it’s familiar. Liu has endured in an industry which is especially harsh towards women, and particularly women who are no longer under 30. She has a long and varied resume of acting work, and is in her own right a very talented director. But did you know that Lucy Liu is also an artist?
Recently launched is her website (, which houses a slick and refined archive of her work. For those who are just realising the diverse talent behind the face, it is a comprehensive collection of pockets to peruse. And for those who have been curious, like myself, but not had the opportunity to really explore her artistic work in detail, it is just as alluring. Lucy’s website offers both a glance into her process as an artist, in both painting and sculpture, as well as the works themselves. The various works are presented in wide, and then in detailed segments – so you can see the little strings of yarn, the battered nails, and the ripple of the paints.
Liu’s body of work is extensive, varied and exploratory. Her resin sculptures are seated on vivid purple blocks, a stack of bone coloured forms that hide from you their true identity until you look closer. What seems to be a strange tower of something like a spinal column, is actually a flock of delicately balanced birds.

In her series Totem, Liu continues her biological theme. A collection of stitched canvases, the works focus on incarnations of the spine. As told to Jennifer Field, Liu describes a genuinely heartwarming sentiment about the origins of the works – she says that from the anchor of the spine, strings are drawn taut or dangle like tentacles, much as relationships are cultivated, intertwined, or abandoned in our personal lives. Some canvases have small tokens attached or sewn in, and some are slashed, while others are punctuated with tiny splashes of colour.
One of Liu’s most technically traditional series’ of work is her Shunga collection. Traditional, but charged – the term Shunga is a Japanese one, pertaining to a form of erotic art which is customarily depicted in ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints or paintings). Intrigued by the overt nature of the imagery common in Shunga, and how contrasting she found it to be of her own cultural upbringing, Liu explored the art form in the creation of her own series. Paintings in the traditional Shunga style are more refined, whereas Liu chose to depict her work in a more exaggerated style, which is to say how the series is more inspired and less abiding.
Lucy Liu is a respected actress, a skilled director and a compassionate humanitarian. But she is also a very gifted artist, who has a genuinely interesting perspective.
Additional photos courtesy of