These female hands are working…

This is week I finally made it to the Whitney Museum of Art’s Making Knowing: Craft in Art from 1950-2019 and was met with a fantastic plethora of some of my favourite working artists, as well as some less known to me. I’ll be adding more of their work up in the coming weeks. But I was most excited to see one particular piece in person.

The one I saw that hugely inspired me, and has since the age of 18, was Liza Lou’s Kitchen – an installation of a kitchen in use- all covered in seed and bugle beads-, complete with a cake being make, dishes being washed, cereal and beer laid out, pictures of which I saw in college and was dutifully awed by.

Image from

What I didn’t see and did this last week was the female legs akimbo in the oven, an Aunt Jamima face on the inside of the over door, and the Emily Dickensen poem –

“She rose to his requirements, dropped the playthings of her life to take on the honourable work of woman and wife.”

on the side of the oven, and barely visible on the fridge

“Against Idleness and Mischeif. How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!”

By Issac Watts

Image from

Reading about her career as an artist I was struck ” at 21, she dropped out her studies at San Francisco Art Institute after being told her beads would not cut it in the art world, and she says she continues to have her choice of medium and aesthetic called to question for its being confined to the realm of woman’s work.”*

This piece beautifully and wittily demonstrates how much work is put into “womens work”, her eye to detail- like the irons on the wallpaper, the recipe written into the cookbook, the ironical ‘Joy’ washing up liquid, plus the 5 years she put into creating this work can only show that, and yet it didn’t receive all positive feedback, “It’s almost like it’s more transgressive to make female work,” she says. “It really strikes a nerve, and not in a good way,” she says. “It’s truly offensive.” * from Zolima City Mag see below for link

And yet, she continued to work with beads, starting a studio in South Africa, with traditional Zulu bead makers and continuing to create. She talks about giving curated coloured beads, mixed by her, to individual women that they can take them home and bead into strands, and how even with giving the artisans the same source materials they end up being very individualist- smoke form their houses, or oils from their hands reacting differently with the beads to create unique strands, like our own unique DNA, which she puts together to create painting of shimmering colour. “The idea that the gesture, the paint that [they] were leaving behind, was the oils of [their] hands that were impregnating every cloth—to [her] that was a very beautiful, poetic way of thinking about painting. It was the bodily fluid being the gesture that we leave behind.” **

The painting invoke the pixelation of a TV, just out of focus, but also woven mats – simultaneously referencing the past and the future. She has mentioned to look at them you have to look slowly to see what is going on, to understand why they look out of focus, which is a kind of antidote the fast ‘junk’ culture we’re used to, in the constant bombardment of advertising and through our smart phones.

Woven glass beads from the Ingxube Series by Liza Lou – Courtesy Liza Lou and Lehmann Maupin. Taken from

I saw her exhibition in 2018, at Lehmann Malpin, of The Clouds and was blown away by individual square sheets of beads, painted, dyed, smashed, revealing their fragility and also their strength as well as the meticulous way they were produced to being to withstand a hammer. A wall of them became a skyskape, ethereal, and full of movement.

Liza Lou, Nacreous (2018), detail. Photo by Matthew Hermann, courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Taken from
Liza Lou, Pyrocumulus (2018), detail. Photo by Joshua White, courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.
Liza Lou, Pyrocumulus (2018), detail. Photo by Joshua White, courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Taken from

For references and more infomation about Liza Lou

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