INTERVIEW | Reflections with Liz Huston
On a rainy Sunday afternoon immediately after the historic Women's March, Editor, Angela Butkus strolled up to the Labyrinth hidden above Los Angeles' Last Bookstore to dive head first into LIZ HUSTON's whimsical world of introspection and strength. Huston's art was beautifully displayed in small art studio which begged many philosophical questions on a personal level. Are we really giving each other a big enough chance? Are we giving ourselves that chance? Here, Huston speaks about her artistic journey which helped aide her on a spiritual one as well.
When did you start painting and how did you know that would be your outlet?
I knew it when I was really little. I was four years old when I told my mom that I wanted to be a painter and she laughed at me. She was like, “No, you can’t do that”. The arts where still accessible and I played the piano. It wasn’t until I was twenty that I got my first camera and I taught myself photography and I self-published and traveled the world with it but I never learned how to paint. I never went to art school, and I kept in my head that I wanted to be a painter. So I guess what really started it was when my ex-husband and I eloped in New Orleans. We didn’t have a photographer so I shot photos of us on a tripod and decided that I wanted to compose a wedding portrait of, which is now titled “The Lovers”. I made it in Photoshop by compiling all these photos that I have taken and I realized that I could create art in Photoshop. As I kept it up, photography started fading away and one day I decided to print on metal for an art show I had coming up and the printer gauged the metal as I printed and the art had all these lines in it, but I had no time to remake it, so I decided to paint on top of these tiny holes and lines by hand and that’s when I saw that I could paint. When I first started to see how paint works, I started with watercolors on top of the painted work and I liked how the colors worked together. Like what happened here with the sky and the paint? That’s amazing! So then I scanned it into the computer and worked with it some more and it grew naturally.
How would you describe your creative process? Is it the idea behind the painting that you start with or do you focus more on technique and mediums?
I start with a story. It’s always the story, and sometimes it’s just a piece of it, like a character. Like, with “The Fates”… they have to exist somewhere beyond time and space so they are right at the edge of time and I started painting the feeling that I wanted with watercolor and then I started thinking about the characters themselves. Who are they? And though I didn’t use this painting in the piece, it was the sketch. It was the emotional record of the piece. That’s where I start.
You seem to draw a lot of inspiration from the feminine form. What does the feminine entity mean to you and what it portrays in your art?
I grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist house—very male-dominant. Dad always poured the milk and not a very free-thinking environment and I brought that into my poor choices with men, but when I got married, I found the Goddess Temple of Orange County and it’s this non-denominational place where all goddesses from every religion all over the world are revered. I walked in there and I felt like I was home. This was 12 years ago when I didn’t know that women could be revered, strong and capable and beautiful. This was the first time I saw that, reflected in the teaching of all these traditions all over the world. I then started having confidence in myself as a woman. I didn’t realize that my own internal femininity was so scared to raise up her head. So this became the central part of my art. And I’m not talking about, “Oh, become a goddess! Get a make over!” No, this is deep. Reclaiming the power and the beauty in the feminine is so important to me that it cannot be excluded from my art.
All of your pieces are titled quite philosophically. Do they arise while you’ve been painting the piece are they themes that you contemplate in your day to day?
Some of them originate in my writings. I journal all the time, but I’d say that a lot of my art starts with a working title and as I work on the piece, the title shifts. Take, “If You Fall, Fly Into Yourself”—it started with the idea of the struggle between freedom and security because, originally, one of the birds was grounded in the floor reaching for another bird. Think of having two halves—one who is flying and one that’s afraid to fly because it’s safer on the ground. As I keep asking the question of what is the struggle between freedom and security, I began to realize that the answer is a matter of identity. It’s not a matter of where you are. It’s the journey of becoming and learning how to trust yourself. That’s what the piece evolved into. There is great responsibility in freedom. You have to be responsible for who you are and what you do and when you are responsible, and then you can be free to be who you are.
People should pay attention to their own power and harness it. Can you tell me a little bit about “The Personification of Karma”?
It started as being the Justice Card in a Tarot Deck I’ve been working on. As I was working on it I realized that it’s so much more than Justice. Karma comes into place and how I internalize karma is cause and effect—for every action there is a reaction. There has to be a balance to it, right? You can’t have all good and all bad. Life has to be balanced. There is man[kind] trying to gather what’s needed in life. In this case, butterflies which symbolize soul. He is at the foot of this huge force that can’t really even be comprehended because it’s so big and multi-dimensional, but we, as humans try because we have to make sense of what is in front of us. It’s hard to see how knowledge and heart both need to exist. This piece is about the balance of the mind and the heart and the knife or dagger is there because we have to defend our hearts. That’s huge. I don’t think enough people do defend their hearts and their core truth, but it absolutely has to be defended and through knowledge, we gain access to other realms that are far beyond our current comprehension of what life is. So this is a piece about how we are all the same. We are bigger mysteries than what we can even begin to understand.
What do you want your viewers to gain from your art?
I want them to learn something about themselves and about how they can see the world and maybe see that things aren’t black and white nor are they one-dimensional. They are multi-faceted. Things are sometimes strange and confusing, but beautiful and that’s okay. The tension between what is strange and what is beautiful is actually unique to each individual.