An immersive, interactive art collecting experience overtakes three rooms at Benefit 2016, February 5 – 6 at Crane Arts. Participants will be ushered into the Grey Area, where catered selections by Birchtree Catering circulate in three stages over the course of the event and an array of gift certificates from local boutiques and restaurants will beckon attendees onward into the thrill of the hunt. Bidding wars will heat up in the Icebox Project Space, approximately 4,500 square feet of labyrinthine two-and-three dimensional art displays.
Jacque Liu dabbles in everything from installation pieces to the human memory. Using abstracted pastel colors and an awareness of the historical context of artistic objects, Liu balances the impermanence of ideas with the permanence of the impact they can have.
Erica: Can you start out by telling me about your background as an artist?
Jacque: I’m a visual artist. I studied ceramics. My current work is in other mediums, largely taking the form of wall-based sculpture or drawings of some sort. They’re generally abstracted forms of architectural elements in my surroundings.
Erica: You’ve traveled quite extensively – you were the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship – can you tell me how that’s affected your work – if at all?
Jacque: I’m interested in memory and experience; and how these things stay with us in the present. A lot of my work is an interpretation of physical things and places that I’ve encountered. Over the past few years, I lived in Berlin, Germany; Detroit, Michigan; and have been in Philadelphia since 2008.
In ceramics, there is a lot of thought around experiencing the moment, and appreciating what’s there. I’m interested in conveying these ideologies in my work.
Erica: You’ve described your work as understanding a notion of place. What’s the best interpretation of Philadelphia as a place that you could give?
Jacque: Philadelphia is very vibrant in terms of arts and culture. It’s a true metropolis, which is reflected in the deep wealth of cultural organizations. One of the things that I value most about Philadelphia is that it is a place that supports so much artistic growth and experimentation in so many different ways. Which goes back to my interest in process, it’s a place where the work can happen.
Erica: Every time I’ve encountered your work – the color palette has always been pastels, soothing and sweet like candy. Why the preference for delicate shades?
Jacque: Color’s never been an easy thing for me. When I use color in my work, I think of how I can make that color less of a color. Often this has been done with the use of Mylar, which is a kind of translucent plastic that mutes whatever color is below it. Also, because Mylar is a plastic, it captures light. So when I use the Mylar material, it simultaneously makes the color below less colorful but also brighter.
This physical application of Mylar to color is a reflection of how I think about memory. One way of thinking about memory is that it is an objective recollection of what has happened. But I tend to think that we subconsciously select what we remember; curating our own memories for whatever reason. I find that space – where we choreograph our pasts to our emotions – very interesting.
Things like performance – theater and dance – have always been really interesting to me because you have to be there – you can’t just perceive what it could be. One has to experience it. It’s most interesting to me when one experiences something in person – in museums, and galleries.
Erica: Can you tell me about the piece you’ll be donating to the Benefit this year?
Jacque: It’s called “Ululation #7″ and it is an abstraction in color and form. It’s about 24” x 32”. Like the body of work I previously described, it is made from Mylar so it captures and distorts color. Every time you shine light on it, it captures it in a different way, so it becomes a filter of the color that’s inside of it. It alludes to something but does not explicitly state what it is.
Erica: It should be really interesting to see in the Icebox too, especially with the party element that happens at the Benefit. What advice would you give to a young collector, from your perspective as an artist as well as someone who’s worked behind-the-scenes in arts administration?
Jacque: I used to work at a private art foundation. The collectors there used to say, “Go with your gut, whatever you like.” “Your gut” and “whatever you like” is hard to discern because they are by nature, subjective.
But I think there is something to it.
I’ve also had people ask me, “Is this art going to be worth a lot of money?” And just like how no one can really predict the stock market, no one can predict the monetary value of art.
Art work is something that people have to live with. Especially if the collector(s) are young, they are most probably going to have to live with it for a long time and probably spend more time with it than the artist has spent.
That relationship is very special. And after a while, when the collector develops a comfort level with the artwork, it’ll speak to them in a different way.
For collectors who are looking at artwork, realize that this is the relationship you will be entering with the acquired object. If you see something you love, go with it. For the artist, it’s a wonderful thing that someone would want what you have made, and they want it so much they made it happen.
In ceramics we talk about a sense of responsibility because ceramics as a material will be around forever. They find ceramic shards from many, many, many, many years ago. The work that I make the material from can last for a very long time, but the form that it’s in may be destroyed. A ceramic piece is like a story, people put them back together. It’s a balance to me, having a personal message – whatever you want to convey as an artist – and also having a sense of responsibility to the object, what it will be to other people.
Erica: Early ceramic artists didn’t have to worry about that. It may be a new thing that artists will have to confront.
Jacque: That’s all part of the growing process. You have to be [willing to] make a bad thing. It’s how we learn.
Erica: True of a lot of things. Now what about advice for a young artist – what are some crucial Philadelphia galleries or venues that are a must-visit?
Jacque: I don’t think there’s any that should be singled out. We really do have a rich [variety] of cultural institutions. Try to look beyond your given medium. As a visual artist I’ve been influenced by performances – dance, theater, music – not just in my artistic practice, but also for the cultural enrichment. It’s so wonderful to see all of these things but at the same time it’s very interesting to see how heritage institutions treat objects. The difference between them is – an arts institution is interested in how the artist wanted it to be seen and interpreted, whereas a heritage institution treats that object in a way that’s somehow less sacred. They’re interested in the story of what that object was for the culture and the time period. Or the person who owned that thing.
Erica: I like that the historical perspective emphasizes the importance of the collector of the piece, even going down the ages. It represents you in some way even as a collector, not just as an object.
Jacque: It becomes part of their family, and their family of objects. It becomes a part of the identity of that history, place, people.
Press Bid to Play at Benefit 2016, February 5 – 6 at Crane Arts.