Thanks to an awesome tribe

Interview of artist Liz Rywelski by Jennifer Zarro

Just when Space 1026 has put up that swell-looking show at the Yerba Buena Center, an interview of show participant Liz Rywelski arrived in our email from Jennifer Zarro. Sounds like changes in Rywelski’s life are afoot.

Zarro, who used to work at the PMA and the Klein Gallery, also used to write a column for Art Matters (Inside the Artist’s Studio) but had to give it up to focus on finishing her dissertation in art history at Rutgers. We’re going to run this in three parts. (For more on the Yerba Buena installation, visit Shelley Spector’s posts, part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.). –the editors


JZ: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

LR: Yes. It’s funny because in second grade and kindergarten when they gave me books in class I always signed them with my name and then “artist, singer” underneath. And my parents gave me a lot of emotional support. I was also putting on shows in my neighborhood too: puppet shows, dance shows, or having paint workshops on the corner (image, Rywelski’s “For my boyfriend serving in Ramadi, Iraq with the PA National Guard,” taken at a Saratoga Springs, NY, K-Mart).


JZ: Your art is so personal. You use your body and your relationships and yourself as the subject in much of what you do. I always wonder what it is like for an artist to put themselves out there like that.


LR: We all live such completely different lives yet we are all still here breathing and searching for that thing, or not, or not even breathing well. Much of my work comes directly out of the way I live my life (image, from “The Giveaway,” a joint project she did with artist Josh Kline, a.k.a. Josh O.S., about shopping).


I would say a lot of my projects were born out of chaos.

JZ: So when you start a work, do you think in advance of whether or not you are making art, or do you think that you are just doing what you need to do right now in your life?

LR: It’s usually just what I need to do at the moment. I think it’s not until I make the commitment to do it again that I see it as an art project. When I first get a conception or idea it usually just comes out of thin air, it’s me processing my surroundings.


JZ: When you think of yourself as an artist, do you think, “I need to produce more work now,” or “I need to get into shows now.” How do you think professionally about your art (image, from Rywelski’s “Heart” series)?

LR: Recently I have consciously been making the shift to think more professionally and I guess that includes using my time more wisely. I am ready to produce higher caliber work so that it makes sense to be in shows in spaces that have real security, not that I am ready to cash in my DIY card yet. I think I am ready to package up what I have done in the past three years and put it out there and to create space for myself to start taking in again and creating.

JZ: You joined the Space 1026 collective soon after graduated from Moore, right? How has being part of a collective helped your career in art making?


LR: Space 1026 is an awesome tribe. They are my family for better or not better. I joined after working with a few members installing the 1026 ICA show in 2002. I had an internship with Ben Woodward and he taught me how to stretch silk-screens; and I drew portraits of George W. Bush for Jesse Goldstein’s prints for his show at Nexus Gallery in 2002. I never joined 1026 with a career in mind, I joined out of need. I trusted those people. All of my friends moved to NY after college and I wanted to stay in Philly. I needed a place to live and work and they hooked me up. Ben showed me how to fix flat tires on my bike. Isaac, Jesse O, Brian and I worked together. Jesse G. found me a place to live. Max hired me to make some art for an upcoming installation. Andrew showed me how to be a cleaner screen printer, how to do things in the gallery, and put me on the list to get into his parties.* They made a place for me and set me up to get myself on my feet. I have so much gratitude for those guys. They have given me so much in life experience, leading by example. I know I am leaving out a lot. But really it has helped by showing me to be a better giver (image, drawings in Rywelski’s studio).

* Isaac Lin, Jesse Olanday, Brian Lynch, Max Lawrence and Andrew Jeffrey Wright.