Liz Rywelski
Liz Rywelski

In these porraits, Philadelphia based artist Liz Rywelski visits Kmart stores, creates a temporary identity and then asks for the assistance of the store’s employees in having her portrait taken. On one trip she is a recent college graduate, hoping to take pictures to send to her family. On another trip, she is the fiancé of a soldier stationed in Iraq, and wants to send her beau a portrait. She introduces herself to some of the employees as a customer in need of assistance, creative assistance, and then allows herself to become a canvas for their creativity and their sense of style. She asks them to choose clothes for her, makeup, accessories, and then in the in-store photo studio, staffed by an ‘untrained’ photographer, she allows them to select the best backdrop, props and poses. Rywelski’s project is based on her role as facilitator as opposed to singular creator. However, instead of collaborating with a singular artist-genius, Rywelski collaborates with the employees of Kmart, working individuals whose low-wage employment at a large retailer has been expurgated of most substantive creativity. She allows these employees to transform their role as wage-laborers into creators – working with them in the store, they become Rywelski’s master printers.


New York Times 8.19.05

Joy Found In Williamsburg : Review by Brent Burket

Shiny Happy People : Review by Robin Rice

Art of Mediocrity




by Liz Rywelski

we were at a party at THE SOUTH PHILADELPHIA ATHENÆUM , an old wrestling practice space in South Philly and this Red Room was there.

Adam Wallacavage let me use his photo equiptment, we set it up, locked in the composition, Adam left the red room to watch USAISAMONSTER play in the next room over.

and I invited one Person at a time to come into The Red Room. I was nude, a nude photographer. I told Person to walk in-front of the camera quickly, I shot two pic’s of Person. I asked Person to come behind the camera with me to look at the pic’s I shot while nude.

together we studied Person’s clothed gesture on the digital camera screen. I told Person, “I want to be you, in that position, in those clothes, right now.” so Person gave me clothes, right there. we became completly naked together. I studied Persons becoming naked movements as I put on Persons underwear, shoes, socks and jewlery. as i got dressed Person became the nude photographer and directed me into taking the same position as the one captured on digital camera. I tried really hard to get into it, to get it, to be Person. thinking about how naked Person might feel in clothed Persons body.

do you know about Being in a room with someone you don’t know very well, you just got unclothed with them, and now this Person is telling you what to do, how to feel, and yelling it over really loud but really good music? .

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The Septa Letters is a short book published by Free News Projects in a limited edition of 500. Written during the year 2003-4 and compiled durng the year 2005, The Septa Letters, is inspired by beauty found in strangers riding SEPTA trains.

Some people stand out to me sometimes and I think I know their truth, where they are from and what they are about. This project was a successful attempt to prove myself wrong. By passing small kind notes signed with my email address to fellow SEPTA passengers, I was able to poetically document my assumption of them and measure it against what some passengers email reply's revealed. The book contains romantic accounts of the events and email replies.

To purchase a copy follow the link at the bottom of this page.

Below is the introduction to the book. It is an actual account of the event that first inspired the letters:::::
Waiting for the Market bound el-train at about 7:15 pm on a night in late December, I was running about ninety minutes late to the opening reception of a group show I had work in. The Frankford bound train pulls up and away as I watch a cute boy in a yellow puffer jacket and headphones bop along towards the overpass singing something terribly sweet like R&B at the top of his lungs.
(If I were a boy that would be me), I say to myself. I watch him curiously, smile, and say, “Hi.”, as he passes through the turnstile and off the platform. It took him a few seconds to recognize I had said something to him. He looks back, “Hi”, I say again.
“Come closer, I can’t hear you.” he says.
“Why don’t you turn down your headphones so you can hear me,”
Then, so animated, he whips out his TransPass, swipes his card, walks over to me on the platform, and very sweetly asks if I like music.
“Yes, I like music.”
He said, “No, Musiq, the artist.”
“Oh.. Yeah. Yes, I do.” I said,
He doesn’t look like el-trade. He is beautiful. With crystal-sea eyes and fresh skin; he is clean looking. I ask him where he’s from. “I was born in France, an orphan, adopted to the states at 12, left my adopted family at 15 and have been living on my own, supporting myself since I was 15. I work down town and go to band practice everyday. I love Musiq. Music is my life. You?”
“I am from Philadelphia.”
He takes out his phone and asks for my number. I can see my train coming around the York/Dauphin bend, so I start reciting my digits very slowly hoping I wouldn’t be able to finish by the time my train gets here… 2 … 6 … 7 … he kisses me! This kid takes my face and kisses off all of my lipgloss, and keeps kissing me until the train doors open.
He is a light, I am a prism on the Dark Side of the Moon album cover. I was once the only person I knew who did things so passionately. I rush off and just make it onto the train before the doors close; floating and butterflies inside of me. He was so magical in this moment. It is with what the letters began.


Since this night I’ve found two more boyfriends on the el-train. The first was at 11th street station. He wore all black with his hood up. He sat two seats behind me. I watched his reflection in the Plexiglas in front of us. We made eye contact in the reflection and I watched as he took down his hood to reveal his chin length straight blonde hair. As we rose from the tunnel to the elevated Spring Garden stop the afternoon light connected with his plush face. He was perfect and had sweet lips and looked as though he might be from Denmark. I wrote him a letter on a flyer I had in my bag. It read:

Your face is perfect.
I like you.

That flyer had my email address on it. I handed it to him as I got off at Berks. He wrote me a few days later.

From :
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004 23:49:13 EST
Subject:to ??liz?? from the el STOP(BERKS I THINK) : )

Dear Liz:

There is so much I want to ask you I don’t know where to begin but um … as you can see Im thinking about you. I mean you give me this poast card thing (looks like your work place) and then you were gone and you left me wit a little note. I was wondering if you could e-mail me back at this e-mail or another one witch is or it might be These both are my friends emails cuz I don’t have one but yea please if you could Liz or I think it’s Elizabeth Rywelski but not to sure but if you tell me your name in full but for now my name is Alex! Alex wut? You’ll find out if I hear from you.
With only wonders,

A few days later he wrote again…



The SEPTA Letters , inspired a short film created by filmmaker Ted Passon .

For a complete copy of The SEPTA Letters published by Free News Projects follow this link:: The Septa Letters, limited edition of 500