Lizzee Solomon Speaks on “Rubberneck” Art Exhibit, Opening Friday
CMU grad and multimedia artist Lizzee Solomon left her job at a local gallery to pursue her passion full-time: making the slimiest, gooiest, stretchiest artwork you’ve ever laid your eyes upon. Influenced by Nickelodeon and other cartoons (Rocko’s Modern Life, Pokémon) and Pittsburgh’s vast network of artists, Lizzee has worked over the past six months to prepare for her personal exhibition: “RUBBERNECK.” The show is opening March 6 at Remedy and will be up until April 1. According to Lizzee, the exhibit will display a plethora of “cartoony looking, fictional characters with hyper-exaggerated perspectives, dimensions, and rubbery looking joints, [utilizing] strong contour lines and vibrant color pallets” within the paintings. We recently chatted with Lizzee about “RUBBERNECK,” her intense, jarring style, and working with the show’s curator, Brian Gonnella. Check out some excerpts from our conversation below:
Zoe: It seems like you do a lot of mixed media art and you use a lot of different mediums. Why do you think you prefer [artwork that is jolting]?
Lizzee: Ever since I can remember really taking a turn towards doing art as a college degree, and then as a career, I’ve always been fascinated by weird, kind of grotesque, unusual things. That’s actually how I learned to draw, by copying characters, and then I started creating my own characters after a certain point. I was formally trained in how to draw fruits and vegetables and all that boring stuff in art class. But I’m more interested in seeing art that pushes the boundaries – more jarring, maybe explicit, and possibly offensive. The Chicago imagists are huge influences for me, and they were really pushing the envelope in the 60s and 70s. People that get a lot of flack from the norm of society for being a certain way, or for exploring certain subjects in their art, I admire that. I don’t necessarily have as much interest in art that’s ‘playing by the book.’
Z: Would you say, for “RUBBERNECK,” the goal is to make people uncomfortable? Or is that maybe just a byproduct?
L: I would say it’s a byproduct. At this point, I’m pretty aware that some people really like my artwork, and other people really don’t like it. There’s not a lot of people that are not affected either way. Some people that aren’t into art in general might not have a reaction to it, but I think that, for me, my most successful work is usually the work that I don’t question or inhibit myself with. This is a series that I’ve been thinking about and wanting to do for a while, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m not looking to make people gag or run out of the bar, because that’d be bad for their business and it’d be bad for mine. But I think that a lot of people I know who are in shows around town, and are in a lot of the shows Brian has put together, are people whose work I admire. I think there’s a little community there, so I feel pretty safe in what I’m putting out there. I would say the [main] goal of the show is to reemerge as an artist in the Pittsburgh community, primarily as a painter and an illustrator. I do pursue a lot of avenues, and I just realized that it’s probably more beneficial to have more focus in what I do, so this is definitely a vehicle for that [in regards to] a developed body of work. In terms of what I want the viewer or audience to walk away with, I want them to be allured by the colors and shapes, or perhaps the characters that are involved, and to maybe question some of their ideas about gender and consumption. And just have fun, too… It is at a bar!
Z: You used the word inhibit. When you’re inhibiting yourself, I guess, what is that a product of?
L: I’m still pretty new to being an artist outside of college; I graduated in 2011, and I got very constructive feedback from my peers and professors. But, a few times, I was called a misogynist or superficial for choosing the subjects and the aesthetic style that I wanted to do within my work, so that’s been really important for my development. I’m not painting as many sexually explicit subjects now, which is a little bit more flexible in where you show that kind of work, which is good. I’ve kind of developed from that. But there’s always this voice in my mind saying, “Uh, do you really wanna do that? How will people react to it… Will they just not get it?” There’s always that background voice that every artist finds that’s like, a devil’s advocate, I think.
Z: What do you think people will take away from the way you embrace and exemplify imperfections and flaws?
L: I’m a big fan of imperfection, but at the same time I’m kind of OCD with the execution of portraying imperfections in my work. Everything’s kind of rounded out and really clean-lined in this show in particular. I think that if people can see the flip side of imperfection, like, “Oh, this can be cute or kind of funny,” or maybe, “Oh, this is scary but it’s in a happy color palette,” they’re maybe a little bit more able to let their own guard down about how they perceive their own imperfections, or [about] how they judge others physically. Because it’s really just a bunch of flesh and bone, and it’s what covers our internal organs. It does have a really big impact on how you can live your life and what opportunities you have in life, which I think is kind of bullshit, but that’s just the way it is… So talking about that would be a cool thing. If someone could gleam that from my work, that would be pretty cool.
Z: How do you think that working with [Brian Gonnella] and seeing his work concurrently with creating your own is bringing something new to either “RUBBERNECK,” or your image as an artist in Pittsburgh?
L: I haven’t known Brian very long, but in the brief time that I have known him, we’ve gotten pretty close as friends and also as artistic collaborators. We’re going to be collaborating on the live painting at “Art All Night” this year, which will be my first paint collaboration with him. But I’ve been a fan of his work for a while, before I even met him, and he turned out to be a super down-to-earth guy, really nice, very supportive of colleagues of his in the art community. Right around the time that he became a curator at Remedy was the time where we got to know each other, so he reached out to me, and I said, “Of course, I’d love to do a show.” I’m super excited to see how he envisions my work on the wall, because it’s all his call, really. He’s hanging all the work himself and helping to promote it. His work has a very graphic quality to it, and it has a lot of lines and pretty bright colors, as well as a narrative throughout his whole series of work. And I was really struck by his innovation and how he hangs his own shows. He had one show and Imagestock where he had an entire scene of a postapocalyptic landscape, and he had all of them on individual canvases, but together they formed a giant [work]. So people were able to walk away with an affordable piece of this giant work instead of having this really large, unaffordable wall painting… He’s a good artist, of course, but he’s also really savvy with what his viewers like and what he makes for them.
Make sure to stop by and visit Remedy for the “RUBBERNECK” debut, beginning at 9PM. Lizzee will be in attendance for its opening night, so don’t miss your chance to see some incredible artwork and meet this amazing creator.