The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

ASSASSINATION: Liz Fish, Artist Represented by Iao PROJECTS and CollegeArtOnline

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Photograph of Liz Fish. Courtesy of Liz Fish.
Liz Fish: Volcano Mombacho – Nicaragua, 2007, c-print, 20 by 20 inches, edition of 5. Courtesy of Liz Fish.

I had a chance to peep Los Angeles photographer Liz Fish‘s work first from the contender list of the 2008 1st Edition Hey, Hot Shot! contest sponsored by the Jen Bekman Gallery. Her diverse range of work examines subjects ranging from ladies public restrooms to documentary work in Nicaragua.

With characteristic humor, her photography has flexible layers of irony and affection for her subject matter. With uncanny, precise detail, Fish has an ability to elicit a profound sense of humor and a knack for tight composition in her deft arrangement of objects within the frame. The Art Assassin feels rather grateful to address this young and brilliant conceptual photographer regarding her tastes, intrepid techniques, and her philosophy of picture taking.

If you have any questions about Fish’s artwork, feel free to contact her gallery Iao PROJECTS at (801) 336-0924 or at If you have any questions about artwork at CollegeArtOnline, feel free to contact the space at or at (602) 318-8224.

So on to the show and here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s latest details of this “assassination”:

qi peng: To start off on a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your artistic eye and tastes?

Liz Fish: I have fans?  I have to say it’s so sweet that you are interviewing me, and though I am taking the fact that I’m being interviewed seriously, I don’t expect anyone else to.

I love Martin ParrRichard Billingham.   Chris Verene.  I recently discovered Julia Margaret Cameron.    I am lucky to know Kirsten Stoltmann, who does fantastic work.   I was just on a road trip and met Kurney Ramsey ( whose work is impressive.  We both admire Todd Hido and Christian Patterson and read all of the same blogs, so naturally I like Kurney even more for that.

I read The New Yorker.  Lately I like the cartoons, which concerns me.

I just saw MOMA‘s Into the Sunset exhibit, which is over now, so that doesn’t help anyone.  It was photography of the American West, which you see so often (at least in Los Angeles) but it was nicely done.  Ed Ruscha‘s Every Building on the Sunset Strip stayed with me, maybe because I live in LA so it’s like, hey – I worked in that building!  But it’s also straightforward, mundane, iconic.   I saw a print from Richard Avedon‘s Portraits for the first time, too.  I never pegged myself a Richard Avedon fan, but the print is rich and incredible.  The New York Times review basically calls the whole show depressing.  I’m from Denver, I live in Los Angeles, it IS depressing, but it’s our depressing.

qi peng: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Los Angeles where you are based out of or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Liz Fish: Skylight Books is nice.  Koreatown, where you can get an almost 2-liter plastic bottle of Hite beer, constantly amazes me.  Downtown and East LA are interesting – the older architecture is still intact, mostly from neglect, and there are more people on the street than elswhere in LA.

qi peng: How do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger national economy? Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years? How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America?

Liz Fish: Honestly, I have no real idea how the recession has impacted the art market.  I’m new and naive.  I hope to sell work and find funding for my work.   Kodak gave us film for our projects, which I thought was incredibly generous and unexpected, considering the economy.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite hobbies which you enjoy in your spare time? How do these activities inform the studio work that you pursue? With your personal interests, is your photography reflective of those hobbies you engage in?

Liz Fish: I surf, but haven’t done that in awhile.  I travel, and that shapes my photography.   My husband and I just spent 33 days driving across the country working on two projects.  I’m sort of passively fascinated by serial killers and emergency preparedness, which just means I spend hours googling weird stuff sometimes.

qi peng: What is your opinion on juried competitions such as New American Paintings or Hey, Hot Shot! and curated artists registries such as the Drawing Center‘s Viewing Program in the development of a young artist’s (especially a photographer’s) career? Do you feel that being judged by “officials” or “art referees” help to create a strong reputation for the artist’s work? What elements do you think are necessary to make a particular photograph strong and communicative?

Liz Fish: I’m all for juried competitions.  Finding and entering them can be distracting so I’ve spent more time making work than entering competitions, and hopefully it’ll come out in the wash.   Seems to be a confluence of a good body of work and finding your people.

qi peng: As a former contender of Jen Bekman‘s photography competition Hey, Hot Shot! last year, what was the experience like to be part of the juried group show devoted to conceptual photography? What is your opinion about the other photographers with whom you were featured with?

Liz Fish: Hey, Hot Shot! has been great.  I’ve entered twice, and once received an honorable mention, which was incredibly encouraging. The photographers who have been chosen all have strong bodies of work.  For me, it’s aspirational to have volumes of strong work.  I’m slow and not super-productive.

qi peng: Your work tends to fall within various series such as Ladies Room, Thrift, and Nicaragua. Why these particular subjects? What research do you do before you plan out a series? What is your choice of equipment and why use Polaroid versus medium format for a certain subject matter? When you photograph, what qualities are you looking for when you take pictures?

Liz Fish: Those series are all on my website.  Ladies Room is what it is – bathroom pictures.  Bathrooms are gross and tend to be neglected, and it feels taboo to photograph them.  In Thrift,  I tried to find undesired items and make them beautiful.   The Nicaragua work is a bit of a non-series, but I’d like to go back to Nicaragua and focus on the modern aspects of the culture.  People take so much pride in wearing uniforms there.  Many of the taxi drivers wear pressed shirts, it’s meaningful to work at Subway and wear the clothes.  I always think of the Hot Dog on a Stick employees in the Food Court at the mall in Santa Monica, and how pained they look – I think it’s the uniform.

qi peng: Your photography has a tone of being matter-of-fact and rather direct. Sometimes I feel that one can get confused with it being strictly documentary but there is an emotional value to each frame that is shot. What emotions are you trying to convey? Do you have any examples of photographs where you focus on storytelling? Are your photographs a form of autobiography and if so, how?

Liz Fish: I came from an interest in documentary photography, but I’m moving towards conceptual work.   I hope all my photographs tell a story.  I hope all my photographs are beautiful.  I like sad, neglected things, and maybe sad, neglected people.  I think the stuff we keep around us is interesting.  All of that is autobiographical, but not always in a strict sense.

I also want to do sculpture, to make stuff, but that will come in time.

qi peng: What is the Ex-Boyfriend Project? Before meeting your current husband Reed Fish, what dating experiences have you had that were memorable? How does documentation of past boyfriends fit within the context of your photographic practice? What is being married now like?

Liz Fish: The Ex-Boyfriend Project is a website where people can submit photos of their ex-boyfriends in front of monuments.  It hasn’t taken off, but I think it’s genius.

I can tell you being married to Reed Fish is great, it’s better than I expected.  I’m incredibly furious I live in a state where gay people can’t get married now.  I’m furious at the churches and churchgoers who threw so much money at Prop 8 in California.  I just have to believe it’s because those churches are bloated, dying and scared.

qi peng: One of your photographs “Volcano Mombacho–Nicaragua, 2007” was procured recently during the Pink Elephants & Champagne 2009 Valentine’s Auction Benefit through the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum. What was the experience like to have one of your works land at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art? How has the experience furthered your photographic career? What do you enjoy best about this particular print?

Liz Fish: I wasn’t there, but it’s SO encouraging to sell a print to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, because – hey, who am I?  They liked it!  I have a new line for my resume.

qi peng: Are there any places which you would like to travel someday to? Which places would you find inspiring to see and create potential photographs of that location? What are some of your photographic projects that you are working on right now? Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

Liz Fish: Yes – Reed Fish and I want to take a trip around the world, travel for a year.  We are working on a few collaborative projects, and maybe that’s how it’ll go – less Liz Fish, more The Fishes.  We’ll  be attending the Beyond the Border art fair in San Diego in September with IAO Projects Gallery.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism and art critics such as Jerry Saltz or Roberta Smith? Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world? Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis? Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Las Vegas or San Diego will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City during the recession? What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within Los Angeles where you live?

Liz Fish: I don’t read ArtForum or Jerry Saltz, but I do try to keep up with artist’s websites, and I try to know who’s showing what where, at least in Los Angeles and New York a bit.   Humble Arts Foundation ( is interesting. I check out Eric William Caroll‘s blog and website ( every so often and it never dissappoints. Also Shane Lavalette’s Journal ( – he faithfully blogs photographers and events.  I want to buy more artist books, and more art. People seem to be hanging on in Los Angeles.  I hope other places are becoming art hot spots, hopefully in a cool, contemporary, semi-affordable way.  People everywhere appreciate art. There’s room for it.

qi peng: Do you have anything else which you would like to share with your readers and fans of your photography and other projects here?

Liz Fish: No.  Thanks, qi!

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

June 30, 2009 at 3:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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