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Lucy Liu is an incredible artist – and the internet is obsessed with her paintings

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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She’s been painting since 1993, but the actor has only recently had her first standalone exhibition. This is why the internet can’t get enough of Lucy Liu’s stunning paintings. 

Two Asian women entwined in a passionate embrace, their black hair tumbling down their shoulders. The kiss is set against a natural backdrop, mountains and snow and sky rolling into each other in big blocks of muted colours. The brightest point of the painting – other than the women’s interlocked lips – are their robes, orange and pink and yellow silk wrapped together as one.

The painting is a powerful one, first exhibited at the SCOPE Art Show at Lincoln Centre in New York in March, 2009. The artist has been painting since 1993 from a studio in Jersey City. She is inspired by Willem de Kooning, Agnes Martin and Robert Frank, and works both in painting and mixed media – she’s also a photographer, a filmmaker, a director and an actor.

Her name is Lucy Liu.

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Yes, you read that right, not only is Lucy Liu the beloved star of Charlie’s Angels, Elementary and Set It Up – as well as our forever hair inspiration courtesy of her choppy bob – but she’s also a talented artist whose paintings are a meditation on passion, identity and belonging.

Lucy Liu's artwork is breaking the internet.

“Because we were an immigrant family and I am first-generation, I always had this imbalance of belonging,” Liu told Arsty in a new interview. “I think at first it was the language barrier, not speaking English, but then it started becoming about how I look. I think that art helps evaluate some of the psychology of yourself as a child, and to illuminate some things you may never have understood.” 

Liu’s work runs the gamut of oil paintings and photography – mostly of New York streetscapes and skylines snapped over her many years spent living in the city – to collages and other mixed media work. In January, she celebrated her first museum exhibition titled ‘Unhomed Belongings’ at the National Museum of Singapore.

The paintings on display weren’t for sale – which is a shame because I want to buy as many as I can to hang them on my walls immediately. (Not that they are even remotely in my budget – The Hollywood Reporter says that they retail for between $10,000 and $50,000, so that’s me out of the picture.) But they were for examination. Liu told Artsy that she was overwhelmed by the network of visitors who came to see her work. “It made me feel very connected,” she said.

Drew with Charlie's Angels co-stars Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu

Liu with Charlie's Angels co-stars Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore, in 2003

That exhibition had a strong theme of racial identity and belonging, especially coming from an immigrant family as Liu does. But Liu’s work has also examined her fraught relationship with her father, whom she has called “somewhat abusive”, and the physical and emotional ramifications that she felt because of that behaviour.

When the internet discovered Liu’s talent with a paintbrush, they were in raptures. 

And we are too. 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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