Abigail Liebhart’s primary language of communication is paint. For her, art is a reflection of the images in her mind that cannot be explained in sentences and formal words—a concretization of intangible thoughts. Painting, therefore, takes on a therapeutic role in her life, helping her understand herself and the world she experiences inside of her head. Many of her paintings include the depiction of figures in a dreamscape, using techniques like light acrylic washes over dark layers and high contrasting colors to achieve ghoulish, surreal effects. Her subject does not shy from the grotesque, raw, and unsettling. Just as she uses her art to face her demons, she hopes to help those who view her work become familiar with their fears. She aims to give each individual viewer a unique, personal experience. By leaving a level of ambiguity in her imagery, she gives others the freedom to draw their own conclusions about her work.
This year, I am looking to explore different sides of myself. I would like to create art that is a self-reflection as well as an analysis of the collective consciousness. I am excited to be alive and have an opportunity to reconstruct my life, even though life has presented many challenges. There is room for something else in my life now that so much of it has been fundamentally changed. I fear that the lack of socialization will affect my mood. Once the weather changes I fear that people will experience even less social time since it will be harder to be outdoors. Being with people is a part of life that, for most, feels vital. I hope that things will find a way to work out and we can all learn to respect each other's needs.
One of the first projects I did this year was a rework from an earlier digital work I created in 2018. The goal of the rework was to create a piece of art that shows artistic and personal journey. The first work was a photo that was edited in photoshop to make it look like there were flowers coming out of an open mouth.
Abigail Liebhart, Open Up, 2018, Photograph.
In the rework, I decided to change the medium to paint and work on creating a visually similar image that was conceptually different. The flowers this time are overgrown and more invasive than in the original work. The colors used are darker and more intense. Along with this, we can now see the scene from a new angle.
Abigail Liebhart, Open Up Rework, 2020, Acrylic on cardboard.
Open Up is meant to be a commentary on the drowning nature of being a girl. So many girls, all around the world, are sexualized at such a young age. From the moment they reach any form of physical maturity, they are treated like objects. These ideas grow and manifest within us and they are forced into womanhood much sooner than men are pushed into manhood. Who are we if we are not pure? The idea of purity has been taught to women for centuries, if you are not pure, you are not worthy. As a woman, especially someone who grew up in a catholic environment, more often than not I was made to feel ashamed of myself. That is the sort of guilt that eats away at you and tears apart your self-confidence.
The work below is a starting point and exploration of the subjects I may want to work on this semester. After starting to let ideas culminate in my mind, the first thing I wanted to start with was painting directly on fabric. Rather than stretching it on a canvas, I laid it flat on the floor and went to work. One reason why I decided not to stretch the fabric was the possibility that I may want to construct it into a garment or some other form.
What happens when you take a painting away from its usual place on a canvas? Straight lines turn to sloping curves. Forms shift shapes. Perception changes.
Abigail Liebhart, Fabric Study #1, 2020, Acrylic on Microprint Fabric.
In this artwork, I wanted to explore the idea that a painting does not need to be on a canvas or a wall, but rather, it could take on any form. In this endeavor, I chose to paint on a grey toned, patterned piece of fabric. I wanted to understand how the juxtaposition of an image worked on a microprint. How can you transform the nature of an image by bringing what would normally be in two dimensions onto a malleable, flowing surface?
I am struggling right now with understanding what I want to do with my thesis. I am not used to making art that is delicate. The style I have recently begun to identify with is very masculine and grotesque. I am having trouble differentiating between making art that I like versus making art that I feel. A lot of my art represents feelings that I experience but don't necessarily like. As someone who feels like they have many identities, I do not know which one to pursue. I may still want to work with fabrics in some shape or form, but something about a canvas draws me in in a way that nothing else does. My next idea is to embrace the raw, dark images that appear in my mind. This semester has been hard because I have never felt further from myself and my conscious mind. I am trying to come back down to earth and start creating art rather than just thinking about it.
I want my art to provoke questions as well as answer them. To depict the feelings people may not even know they have. And to transcend form as we know it.
Abigail Liebhart, Nighthawk, 2020, Acrylic on canvas.
For this in progress painting I have been working on, I have laid down about 4 layers of paint, trying my best to depict a dream scape that includes two figures. One figure lays on an implied surface while the other tugs at the first figure’s arm. It is meant to represent the intersection between two versions of a person and how contradiction is built into our nature. The twisted bodies of both figures is meant to show that the two are drawn in different directions to the point where if they twist anymore they can once again meet each other’s gaze. This is meant to show that the seeming polarization of two entities can oftentimes be thought of in the form of a circle, rather than a straight line with two endpoints. When relating it to my own life, it is meant to express the paradoxical nature of my identity, and my reluctance to define myself.Process Pt. 1
These paintings and drawings are visual depictions of my fears, nightmares, . I hope to address these feelings I have in my art and learn how to overcome them. I think that my art is important to me because it is a reflection of what goes on inside of my head. My art is how I communicate my thoughts that are hard to put into words. I have also been taking more time to do more casual art. This is something that is hard for me because I often feel embarrassed by art that I do not make to my own personal standards, but I am trying to follow in Jerry Saltz footsteps and start to make art, regardless of if it is good or bad, everyday. I am trying to focus on myself and stop comparing myself to others, as well as try to be more motivated to do my art.
Yes, I am a man eater, but only in my dreams.
Abigail Liebhart, Man Eater, 2020, Prismacolor on cardboard.
Man Eater is an image about power imbalances. In this world, all across the globe, women have been made to feel like the inferior sex, to a point where it is now ingrained in our minds. In this artwork I create a reality where the power balance is flipped, and a woman holds the control. Although I probably would not eat a man, it is fun to dream about it.
Have you ever watched death happen? Not the fast way, but the slow way.
Abigail Liebhart, Dimming, 2020, Prismacolor on cardboard.
This drawing is about death. Not the kind that hits you like a bus, but the kind that drains the light out of your eyes. The kind that sits down in a room with you and stares you in the face. The kind that makes you so angry because you know you have no control. The kind that makes you laugh because its absurdity feels like a joke. The kind that makes you lose hope. If you know this death, you know pain.
What is coming next in my journey?
Over the course of the next few months, I plan to complete my Senior Thesis. Although I have gotten off to a good start, I am nowhere near done. My plan for the next month includes an intensive amount of work to finish the 5 canvases I built this semester. I would like to complete these canvases with paintings that will match my style and further my purpose as an artist. I also have plans to create sculptures that can compliment the paintings, one of these which will consist of a casted candle, because 3D works will help me turn my artworks into an installation. Lastly, I would like to create an artist book that brings all my work together to help me tell a more fluid story.