Introducing the “Who is She” series, it's a chance for us to share women who inspire us not just because they are #DTM but also because of the values they hold and who they really are.
Our first “Who is She” feature is Lizzie Smith! I had the opportunity to catch up with her this week and I can confidently say that Lizzie is hands down one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. She makes and analyzes art, writes, sings, and acts. So I knew going into the interview that we would touch on a broad range of topics. Besides her work in school and summer in New York, we talked about the fetishization of Asian women, and how the ever-changing art scene is impacting her as well as many other artists.
My conversation with Lizzie begins with art.
I have always been a big fan of art. So she has my full attention as she goes into the intellectual realm of the art world. I am not as engaged with art on an intellectual level, so I wanted to know her thoughts on art history as a major and the change she’d like to bring to the art world.
“The major, if you think about it, is perceived as an elitist, cocktail party worthy convo, and feminine, with the connotation of not being able to put to use”, she says slowly. “The undergraduate degree in art history is often seen as something more caliber, almost a pass off. I know from being an art history major and people in the major that it is hard work and people are committed.”
Lately, she’s been thinking about art in a different way. She says that it’s one thing for an artwork to be politically in a gallery. It becomes political in a different way when it enters the public and becomes accessible. Her thoughts on the display of art are radical and refreshing. From her tone, I can tell that art to her is more than a field. It has become part of her identity.
The conversation quickly diverges to what it is like being mixed race in dating life. Lizzies tells me that being half Korean and half white made her dating experience very different from her Asian friends. “I pass as a white person for most people, though for some I don’t. How that relates to dating material per say. It almost feels like, a lot of guys are into dating a mixed race girl because she is just exotic enough looking, but not too exotic. Because if you are full Asian… you’re more prone to be fetishized because of exoticism. It’s just so f*cked up.”
“I feel very strongly about this. I think it happens everywhere, whether it is hookups or dating. It can happen in a long seemingly loving relationship. But I know comments have been said. Comments about my parents have been said… It’s very sickening, and it is definitely something I wish wasn’t a problem. I think it is often looked over.” I can feel her resentment towards this fetishization, and I definitely share the same sentiment. “Uber drivers would often ask me, “What are you!”, she lowers her voice imitating the uber driver. They won’t say anything during the entire ride and that is the only thing they would say.” As we near the end of our conversation, the topic of her summer internship at “Creative Time” in NYC comes up. She tells me that Creative Time does a really good job with making art tangible to the public. What came to my mind immediately was Street Art like murals. But she proceeds to say “how do we take art that is in a gallery and the idea and complexity in the museum and make it intelligible and powerful in the public other than this elite sphere.” To her, art can be political in the gallery, but it becomes political differently when it enters the public and becomes more accessible in public.
Thinking back to last summer, she recalls sitting on the floor of her tiny studio apartment and thinking ‘Oh god, how am I going to survive this for two months?’. To her, the city was very lonely at first- being surrounded by all these people she didn’t know. “I’ve never lived in a city like that before, it’s just so fast and so overwhelming which took awhile to get used to.” I mean, just me trying to find rent that I could afford in Manhattan was insane. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with the city though!
She has concerns for the future of the art communities in New York. She tells me that “there’s a lot of talk of how New York used to be the place where art showed and live, and in the future it might just be more art to show. The skyrocketing rent causes a lot of artistic communities to be kicked out, especially POC and minorities”. She’s unsure whether she will return to New York this summer but I know that she will be inspiring others whenever she goes.