Over the next few weeks Beautiful Savage will showcase the works of five compelling artists in New York City. The Young Underground Artists Series was created as a window into the underground creative scene, and these five artists’ work is both timely and stunning. 

To kick off Beautiful Savage’s first interview for the Young Underground Artists Series we’re proud to introduce Zoe Ligon—a New York City-based collage artist known for fusing contemporary issues with subversive imagery. One of her recent works appeared in TIME Magazine’s “The New Age of Heroines.” Ligon’s work, which pushes boundaries regarding sexuality, has been shown in galleries throughout the New York City and beyond.

To connect with Zoe Ligon, head over to zoolioncomplete.com

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BEAUTIFUL SAVAGE: When did you decide that art was the road you wanted to drive down?

ZOE LIGON: Well my mom always said I was really artistic from a young age (laughs). I started doing the collages about three years ago—but—only seriously in the past year or two.

Where does the inspiration for your work derive from?

Well initially I would have said my inspiration is challenging peoples’ views of porn and violence, and I suppose it still has elements of that, but it has developed into something much more than that. When I first started I literally I had no formal art training whatsoever so I was like, “Oh I can take these already beautiful things and make them into a new beautiful thing.” And then the nudity and porn came into it. It never really had a basic message; it just formed into this thing–although it was never uninspired. Some members of my family got a little upset over it. I actually got rejected from a cat adoption agency because of it. I thought, “Wow people are really uncomfortable with this.” but if only they knew who I was they would know that’s it not coming from a weird sadistic place. It’s not just about the shock factor.

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What inspires you?

Honestly what actually inspires me is looking at art that I personally enjoy. I especially like watching bizarre films, especially animation. If I see something that I think is so well done, I’ll think “How can I translate it, and make it cool in my own way.” But as for names of people, Priit Pärn, the Estonian animator, is one of my favorites. He has a unique style that’s pretty weird. Vernon Chatman, who worked on Wonder Showzen–and more importantly, Final Flesh–is a genius. Musically,  Aphex Twin will always appeal to me. I also really like Salvador Dali–and I’m not saying that in a trendy “I like Salvador Dali.” way. Since the age of six or seven I would convince my dad to take me to exhibitions in nearby cities. I am really into him.

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What medium do you primarily work in?

I use an X-Acto knife and only use found images from magazines.

 What response has your work garnered from being an underground artist?

It’s weird because I’m very tied to my work on the internet, and if you Google my name a lot of porn comes up right now. It’s been making me feel kind of anxious–it gets a really good response overall though. I don’t pursue music or anything else so much—and I feel like I’ve been able to connect to a lot of different types of people through art. I have people who have become fans of my work and they will reach out to me on the Internet or in real life. It starts really good conversation. It’s just a way of putting silly ideas out there and testing the waters of what’s socially acceptable.

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Is being a young artist in today’s society challenging?

Well obviously because we are trying to succeed in a field with unreliable income, in a terrible economy. No one can sustain themselves on a hobby unless they are able to find a very niche market. It’s especially difficult for me because I don’t have any formal artistic training. It is hard to earn a living and have any time for yourself.

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How important do you find it to invest time on the social part of the underground art scene?

It’s really the only thing I ever do anymore. I actually have had friendships end because they didn’t understand why I would spend like six out of seven nights a week going to shows. I mean I go to shows by myself and I usually run into people I know when I’m out. It’s a great social scene.

Is there any aspect of art that you don’t like?

I guess this is where I suppose, I could take a jab at “net artists” and folks who put a used napkin on a pedestal and call it art, but I honestly think it’s all pretty great. I personally get down with certain elements of art more than others, but just because I don’t like it doesn’t really mean much because we all have our own personal tastes.

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 What are your future goals in the art world? (Underground or beyond)

I work primarily as a sex educator right now, so I’d love to find a way to integrate art with sexuality in a more tangible way, designing sex toys, integrating art into sex therapy, etc.

In short who are you as an artist?

For the most part I’ve been trying to see what I’m capable of. I had my first solo show last September and have another solo exhibit this coming summer. I’m seeing what I can do with dance performance, but I’m definitely in a developmental phase.

Photographs courtesy of Macey J. Foronda and Zoe Ligon

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