Oh the places you'll go Liberty Leben, creator of Dirty GRL soap. With one more semester to complete at Parsons School of Design before graduation this spring, the communications design major has proven that she has a bright future ahead of her. Whether she's crafting sustainable art or combining the contemporary with the nostalgic to create an art show, Leben's portfolio is sure to make a lasting impression. We caught up with her to chat about school, soap, and her inspirations.
You went to Parsons School of Design in New York - what led you to pursuing your education here?
I’m actually currently still in school at Parsons and graduating in the spring with a BFA in Communications Design and focus on Design and Technology. When I was ten years old, I fantasized about attending design school in New York and Parsons had always been my first choice. So, getting to go here was pretty much my childhood dream.
In what ways have your studies in communications design influenced your career as an artist today?
I pursued communications design because it is a great way to experiment with fine art and corporate marketing. I treat every course as if it were more than a class. I’ve tried to turn my school projects into real life opportunities.
A lot of your work revolves around Internet culture and girlhood - why do these subjects inspire you to create?
My aesthetic has always been pretty feminine and nostalgic. However, my use of Internet girl culture was never the original intention. Since our generation has grown up alongside such technological evolution, I'm interested in fusing the material reality of my childhood with current online personas and images. My exploration of contemporary culture and new media is approached through what appeals to me visually, and that is usually playful and girly. And while my work can be easily seen as feminist art, the politics are more focused on identity and how technology informs our behavior.
What kind of commentary are you attempting to make in your work on "diet" and "The Limited Fucking # 2" ?
I was the creative director for artist Matt Starr’s DKNY Diet show, which was a satiric take on New York’s Downtown youth culture and lifestyle branding. The Limited Fucking #2 was another collaboration with Starr, offering a re-conceptualized Limited Too. The commentary was based around experience and reaction. For girls, it was intended to be this nostalgic, awkward, and yet playful experience. For boys, it was meant to be uncomfortable, eerie, and inappropriately sexualized. It was very representative of my personality and the nostalgic store every tween girl was obsessed with. But then we applied a modern twist with an iPhone selfie booth, Justin Bieber shrine, and an inflatable Zorb ball – a post-millennium take on 90s inflatable furniture.
One of your most recent projects is Dirty Girl soap - where did the idea for these pieces stem from and what is the production process like?
It started as a sustainable, biodegradable, and dual purpose way to package jewelry (i.e. the choker necklaces I make). I wanted an alternative to plastic for packaging more plastic. I wanted it to be fun, unique and sustainable. When I started experimenting with soap, so many new opportunities opened up. Even though I’ve used soap all my life (in other ways), actually creating with it was exciting. An important factor to Dirty GRL is relevancy and contemporary culture. My goal is to keep everything limited and constantly updated. It’s incredibly fulfilling to create a new soap because it’s a piece of art that fits into this fun brand identity and is a functional product. It’s everything I’ve wanted to do with communications design. The fact that other people enjoy the soap as much as I enjoy creating them is just the cherry on top