Artist Profile: Liza Phillip on Radical Inclusion and Creativity
Bethel, Vermont in the early 2000s was a place of exploration for Liza Phillip.
The grandchild of cattle farmers and the child of small business owners, Liza’s younger days were a beautiful mix of helping out with family businesses, going to school, and fostering their sense of wonder through creative play.
You may not recognize the name right away, but if you live in Northern Vermont (or drink Foam beer) it’s very likely you’ve seen Liza’s work on display.
Now a prolific local artist, Liza says they cultivated this talent over many years. “I would kind of just draw doodles of myself but didn’t really have a style yet. I just drew for fun. I always loved patterns,” Liza explained to me as we sipped our breakfast tea at the Dobra Tea House.
Long before the dawn of social media-inspired art, Liza found inspiration by browsing the magazines available in their local library. An artist that they kept coming back to see more of was Lucas Beaufort. It was during these library sessions that Liza came to discover the style they wanted to see in their own work.
Lucas Beaufort is a name that left Liza’s mouth dozens of times throughout our two-hour conversation. “Lucas Beaufort influenced my art today,” they told me with an ear-to-ear smile. “I’ve been following his work for a very, very long time so that style is something I’ve always liked.”
“I would kind of just draw doodles of myself but didn’t really have a style yet. I just drew for fun. I always loved patterns.”
While the parallels between the two artists’ respective work is undeniable, Liza managed to take what they liked about Lucas’ art and apply it to their own. And, true to Liza’s style, in the most unique way you could possibly imagine.
“He told me to make as many pieces as possible … And he told me to put them up everywhere I can.”
Liza credits Lucas for helping them get to where they are today. They told me about the time they worked in Vail, Colorado and just so happened to see online that Lucas was doing a live painting not too far from where Liza lived. Without hesitation, Liza went to go see their inspiration in action and even had the opportunity to chat with Lucas after he finished.
“He told me to make as many pieces as possible and that people will be impressed just by the amount [I] make. And he told me to put them up everywhere I can. He also showed me this marker, it’s called the Posca marker. This is the marker I use today,” Liza told me.
Liza admitted they never did buy the marker while in Colorado….or when they moved to Australia. It wasn’t until years later, when the coronavirus brought them back to the city of their alma mater (Champlain College) that they, almost by fate, stumbled upon it.
While strolling through the aisles of Michael’s Craft Store looking for a project to dive into, their eyes caught a familiar word on a shelf, one they heard a certain Lucas Beaufort utter years before. With the Posca marker in hand, Liza did as Lucas suggested and just simply started creating.
Liza thought “Why not?” when their sister recommended they try and sell their new work. Much to Liza’s surprise, the paintings sold almost immediately and the people wanted more of it…a lot more.
“[My] art is really for anyone and everyone who connects with it.”
As a member of the queer community, Liza began making art with the goal of uplifting queerness and issues surrounding gender identity. Before too long, they began to realize their work was admired beyond their own community.
Husbands were buying it for their wives, and wives for their husbands. It was applauded by elderly people, teenagers, and children alike. Liza recounted a story about when one of their sister’s students pointed out that they recognized some of Liza’s art in the classroom.
Radical inclusion and body positivity are central to Liza’s creations. Their ability to bring these concepts to the canvas is inspired not only by sheer will and desire but by the community of artists that surrounds them.
“Something I’ve noticed about Burlington is there’s room for everyone at the top and we can lift each other up,” Liza said while explaining their appreciation for the city. “Watching people put themselves out there—friends of mine, people that I don’t know—I’ve been so inspired by that and it motivated me to pursue my own art and [the] creative side of myself.”
As far as Liza is concerned, there’s an artist inside of everyone – it’s just a matter of finding a way to release it.
When I got home after chatting with Liza, I stopped into Bario Bakery on North Winooski Avenue to admire their work. I couldn’t help but feel completely captured by what my eyes saw. The pieces each had their own unique level of intricacies and “hidden” details.
Liza did a commission at the last Otis Mountain Getdown festival in Upstate New York, where passersby could admire Liza creating in real time. I can’t help but feel a touch of jealousy that the festival goers had the chance, not only, to witness this but to do so after a joint.
As a self-proclaimed “lightweight,” less is more for Liza, but that certainly doesn’t cloud their view of the plant’s benefits not only for artists but the general population. I felt excitement in Liza’s already joyful demeanor when our conversation shifted to the new cannabis market in Vermont. As a pharmaceutical patient themselves, they believe it’s important for people to have options outside of the deep hole that is Big Pharma.
Cannabis as medicine, as well as increased education on the subject, is something Liza is eager to see more of in the near future. “There are a lot of people who suffer from chronic pain and [things like] anxiety, ” they remarked. “[Cannabis] can be such a beautiful form of medicine,” Liza continued, “And I love CBD! It’s been really helpful for pain and also calmness.”
Radical inclusion is truly an accurate descriptor of Liza’s art (or Liza_s_art, if you will). Anyone from any walk of life can appreciate what they see on the canvas. Whether you’re 15 or 75, straight or gay, high or not, there is something to behold in Liza’s work.
Next time you’re taking an L-walk around Burlington, stop into Foam, Kru Coffee, The Soda Plant or Bario to catch a glimpse of some of the most incredible art in Northern Vermont. You will not be disappointed.
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