Albuquerque artist Caroline Liu, whose work is featured on the cover of Southwest Contemporary’s 2022 New Mexico Field Guide, paints images that teeter between the real and the imaginary.
Albuquerque | carolineliu.com | @catsandart
Caroline Liu—a painter, seamstress, and muralist currently living and working in Albuquerque, New Mexico—creates vibrant works of art that fuse realistic representations of the human form with abstract grounds and lively color palettes indebted to pop art.
“I create fantastical narratives that bind together magic and realism,” Liu says, which “spark larger conversations of loss, joy, and the eternity of self.” Through these themes, the artist, who uses she/they pronouns, intends to transport “viewers into [her] daydreams, [which she fills] with bright pops of colors, textural elements, and refractive light.”
While painting worlds that foster a liminal space between the real and the imaginary in order to explore complex human emotions is the broad, human-level motive for her work, Liu’s art also serves a deeply personal and idiosyncratic function.
They conceptualize their art as a bridge between “two unique perspectives that form [their] identity.” To this extent, the artist notes: “My work explores my experiences as a late-diagnosed AuDHD (autistic and ADHD) person and my tribulations with short-term memory loss as a result of multiple concussions [over the course of] the last decade.”
The focus on her diagnosis and head trauma certainly provokes serious conversations about mental health and memory loss, but her choice of colors and designs invokes a sense of light-hearted playfulness. This tension Liu generates between the sobriety of her themes and the ecstatic veneer of her aesthetic push her paintings into nuanced spaces that ask the viewer to enter ambiguous realms of thought and feeling.
Liu, who earned a BFA in painting and drawing from the University of New Mexico, has exhibited their work in several galleries throughout the Midwest and Southwest. While they now reside in New Mexico, they spent a large portion of their twenties living in Chicago, painting murals for international companies.