The Otis Community endured a great loss with the passing of Liz Young (’84 BFA Fine Arts), who died on December 22, 2020 after a brief struggle with cancer.
Young was a multi-disciplinary artist who worked primarily in sculpture, painting, drawing, and performance. Of the themes she explored in her work, Young had written: “My artwork investigates themes that evoke feelings of loss and an acknowledgement of the inevitability of nature, its beauty, and decay. I tend to make drawings and sculptural objects within thematic bodies of work, creating a personal context that is empathetic, dislocated, and tender. Themes are awkward juxtapositions and visual conundrums about both nature and culture, private and public, and identity and landscape. My objective is to reconstruct and imitate nature with a sophisticated naïveté, reflecting my concerns about the human body and the natural world. I use processes as varied as traditional art practices to handicraft techniques, always showing evidence of the human hand, and in such themes as love, loss, decay, and the frailty of life.”
Young had solo shows at such venues as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (where her work is included in its permanent collection), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, POST, and Pomona College’s Montgomery Gallery, and participated in group shows at Armory Center for the Arts, Palm Springs Museum, Long Beach Museum of Art, and Exit Art, among others. Young received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2016 and also had received honors from the Getty Trust, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and the California Arts Council, to name a few. She has been written about in the Los Angeles Times, Artillery, and Frieze, among others. Young was the co-chair of Los Angeles County High School for the Arts’s Visual Arts Department, where she had served as teacher, leader, mentor, friend, and inspiration to her students, alumni, and faculty for over 20 years.
“Liz Young was one of the first people I met in the L.A. art world,” wrote Fine Arts chair Meg Cranston. “She was so friendly and kind to me. I never forgot it.”
In 2019, Young had debuted new work, Ghost, in the Ben Maltz Gallery exhibition, “Centennial: 100 Years of Otis College Alumni,” which Director of Alumnx Relations, Hazel Mandujano, had helped organize. “Alumni Relations is deeply saddened by the passing of Liz Young,” wrote Mandujano. “She was an incredible artist, teacher, and dedicated alumna who was very supportive of Otis and the alumnx community. The Otis College alumnx community honors Liz’s genius and legacy and is deeply grateful for her dedication.”
Remembers Renée Petropoulos, instructor in Otis’s MFA Fine Arts program: “Liz was an astounding person, one dedicated to art and to her peers and to fellows in the grandest sense. In 2019, she participated in an event and project that I organized and created, ‘Experts & Amateurs,’ at the Palm Springs Museum of Art. She was in rare form, performing spoken word with video projection and sculpture—a marathon of a project in conjunction with LAFMS [Los Angeles Free Music Society], with whom she had participated over many years…. She was a live wire with her amazing presence and strong character—firm, fierce, smiling, and generous!”
Raghubir Kintisch, an instructor in Foundation, was a close friend of Young’s who wrote her obituary at the request of Young’s family. In it, she wrote: “Liz Young left us with many lessons that she taught by example: to always move forward with a positive attitude, that relationships are built on trust and truth, and that anything and everything is possible if you embody it. Liz took a lot of chances—she was fearless in her art as she was in her life, but no matter what, she taught us that hard work and determination breeds success in all things.”
Main image courtesy of Raghubir Kintisch.