Liz Steketee: New Work
“Portraits, as much as they tell us, still hide so much. This is part of their magic. But, what would happen if the insides could no longer be kept contained? This body of work is about those insides, the guts, exploding out of the placid surface.”
I have always been intrigued with Bay Area photographer, Liz Steketee’s approach to considering photographs. She was an early pioneer in using found and family photographs in her work and her books are small miracles. She continually stretches the borders of photography and art and her new work is no exception. Her photographs have morphed into sculptural objects that play with truth and reality.
Liz lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children where she maintains her own art practice. Liz was a member of the photo faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute where she specialized in digital imaging, compositing, mixed media, and the handmade books for over a decade. In 2005, Liz completed her MFA at the SFAI. Liz received the prestigious John Collier Award of Excellence for her thesis project based on the turbulent circumstances surrounding the birth of Liz’s first child, Emma. After completing her graduate studies, Liz dedicated her work fully to art practice and teaching. In 2017, Liz moved into a full time art practice. Liz’s personal work focuses the notions of photography and its role in family life, memory, and our sense of self. Her work explores mixed media, textiles, book arts, sculpture, and photography, often combining these areas as one.
After a two-year break from my studio due to illness, I returned a year ago with a fresh take on my art practice. I have always been a photographer, but have always wanted to also be a sculptor, a painter, and textile artist. Photography is my first love, but for me it began to lack the felt sense of tactile hand-work. I wanted to build things like I did as a child, with imperfection, freedom, and abandon. Having only been trained in photography, for years, I had stayed safe and kept to my craft.
Getting sick is a funny thing. It’s hard, but it can also set you free in ways previously unimagined. When I returned to work, I did so with a promise to myself of no regrets, no stones left unturned. Life is short. I sought to make work from my gut, not my head. I began to play without pressure for the outcome. I began to experiment with numerous techniques like burning, crochet, felting, and sculpting fabrics.
My newest body of work is an unlikely combination of textiles, and photography. Portraits, as much as they tell us, still hide so much. This is part of their magic. But, what would happen if the insides could no longer be kept contained? This body of work is about those insides, the guts, exploding out of the placid surface. Crocheted yarn intestines, threaded neurons, felted hair tissues, creatures, organs, explode from burned holes in photographs. These emerging textile elements take sculptural form, shooting and oozing from the mouths and eyes of their owners; re-purposing their “feminine” origins to something more universal. They seek to connect with other similar elements emerging near them. The crochet pods speak to each other, crawl towards each other and form connections as the portraits on the wall look on. Part science fiction, part macabre, part pure joy, this work released me and my photography from frames, editions, and preciousness. It taught me to play again, before it is too late.
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