Actress and film producer Lucy Liu is expanding her talents into the art world with a new book of illustrations that explores Kabbalah and meditation.
Liu, 42, best known for roles in television series Ally McBeal and in the Charlie's Angels movies, worked out of her Chelsea studio in Manhattan to create a series of abstract black-and-white illustrations using ink and acrylic paint on watercolor paper that were compiled into a book, Lucy Liu: Seventy Two, released last month.
The series of paintings was based on a chart of 72 names of God in the Kabbalah, a mystical branch of Judaism. While not a practitioner of Kabbalah, Liu was inspired by the names.
I felt drawn to the chart because I thought it was so fascinating, Liu told Reuters. I love the way they categorize everything into boxes, I love the organization of that.
The Kabbalah chart aims to help people with healing, prosperity and fertility, among other pursuits.
They believe that if you meditate on the letters, you can manifest the energy, said Liu.
While the actress is not a trained artist -- she refers to her work as 'outsider art' -- she was inspired by people such as painter and printmaker Robert Motherwell and also drew from her own Chinese heritage, specifically calligraphy.
It's a special thing to be able to come from another place and retain that culture, said Liu of her ethnicity. It's so fascinating to see the progression of how China is becoming more connected to the U.S.
While the paintings themselves only took a few months to create, the big challenge was getting the book published. Liu described that process as very involved, very intimidating.
When you don't know enough on certain things, you find yourself learning very quickly, said the actress. There was an amazing amount of information, such as how deep the blacks would be, or trying to match the colors.
MADE IN ITALY
Publishers Salma Editions took the book to Italy and produced it in the city of Verona, the same location photographer Helmut Newton used for his iconic SUMO book, something that Liu said she was bowled over by.
I've always had an appreciation for books, but now I can see the detail and options they have, she said. There are so many different options on how you want to present the book.
The result is a highly-produced coffee table book, and the paintings are accompanied by essays from spiritual doctor Deepak Chopra and meditations written by Liu herself.
Meditation is such a wonderful way of connecting to a larger part of yourself that you're not really aware of. I thought there was a connection between what I believe in Eastern philosophy and the Kabbalah mentality, she said.
Liu grew up without any specific religious orientation, and given the book's religious foundation, she said she had concerns about how it might be interpreted by people.
The book is about sharing, but you don't want to be intrusive or invasive to other people, said Liu. I did grow up believing there is something greater than we are, and I think that's that I tapped in to.
After launching her book, the actress is back to her day job and will be seen in two upcoming independent films, 'Nomads and The Man With The Iron Fists, along with rigorously training for a recurring role in the upcoming season of Emmy-winning police drama Southland.
As for producing more artwork, the actress remains unsure.
The book changed me, and I love that, she said. This book was very specific only because it had a base and a chart to go off. I would have to find another focus to get me into that place again, she said.