Culture

Lucy Liu drifts from martial arts Angel to meditative artist

Liu in her studio in 2007.

LOS ANGELES: Actress and film producer Lucy Liu is expanding her talents into the art world with a new book of illustrations that explores meditation.

Liu, 42, best known for roles in television series “Ally McBeal” and in the “Charlie’s Angels” movies, worked out of her Chelsea studio in Manhattan to create a series of abstract black-and-white illustrations using ink and acrylic paint on watercolor paper that were compiled into a book, “Lucy Liu: Seventy Two.”

The series of paintings was based on a chart of 72 names of God in the Kabbalah. While not a practitioner of Kabbalah, Liu was inspired by the names.

“I felt drawn to the [Kabbalah] chart because I thought it was so fascinating,” Liu said. “I love the way they categorize everything into boxes.”

While Liu is not a trained artist – she refers to her work as “outsider art” – she was inspired by people such as painter and printmaker Robert Motherwell and also drew from her own Chinese heritage, specifically calligraphy.

While the paintings themselves only took a few months to create, the big challenge was getting the book published. Liu described that process as “very involved, very intimidating.”

Publishers Salma Editions took the book to Italy and produced it in the city of Verona, the same location photographer Helmut Newton used for his iconic “SUMO” book, something that Liu said she was “bowled over by.”

“I’ve always had an appreciation for books, but now I can see the detail and options they have,” she said. “There are so many different options on how you want to present the book.”

The result is a highly produced coffee table book, and the paintings are accompanied by essays from spiritual doctor Deepak Chopra and meditations written by Liu herself.

“Meditation is such a wonderful way of connecting to a larger part of yourself that you’re not really aware of,” she said. “I thought there was a connection between what I believe in Eastern philosophy and the Kabbalah mentality.”

Liu grew up without any specific religious orientation, and given the book’s religious foundation, she said she had concerns about how it might be interpreted by people.

“The book is about sharing, but you don’t want to be intrusive or invasive to other people,” said Liu. “I did grow up believing there is something greater than we are, and I think that’s what I tapped into.”

The actress remains unsure about producing more artwork.

“The book changed me, and I love that … This book was very specific only because it had a base and a chart to go off. I would have to find another focus to get me into that place [again].”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 05, 2011, on page 15.

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