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Liza Lou: Back Yard and Kitchen
July 24–October 18, 1998

Liza Lou
Back Yard (detail), 1995–97
mixed media
22 x 24 feet
Courtesy of the artist
photo: Cary Okazaki

"For me, my work is a prayer, and so the doing of the work is its own dignity."
-Liza Lou, Artist

Transforming familiar elements of everyday life into ecstatic real estate, Liza Lou's sparkling Back Yard and Kitchen are monuments to domesticity, suburbia, and the work accomplished in that arena called home. Lou's meticulous beaded environments embody a simple and dignified work ethic: finish the job you start, no matter how hard or overwhelming seems the task. The Kitchen took five years to complete;the Back Yard two. Kitchen and its painstaking creation parallels the untold lives of those women who have toiled in the home for little or no recognition. Its companion Back Yard is in Lou's words, the "permanently perfect" lawn we view through the kitchen window while washing the dishes. Lou's Back Yard and Kitchen testify to the power of work to fulfill artistic vision.

Liza Lou understands that everyday life is paradoxically simple and complex. It takes labor to enjoy leisure-a back yard picnic requires work in the kitchen. By stopping time in a moment of simultaneous domestic perfection and imperfection—notice the shining dustballs in the Kitchen and the spilled beer in the Back Yard—Liza Lou, in a glittering tsunami of empathy and solidarity, suggests how the domestic space embodies our humanity: we are perfect and imperfect. Lou's monumental and overwhelming act of love, dedication, artistry and even, in her word, "prayer," transfigures daily living. Back Yard and Kitchen show us what Liza Lou already knew—that the ordinary is, indeed, extraordinary.

Dana Self


All quotes from Liza Lou, in Liza Lou, videotape, The Nimoy Family Foundation, 1998.