Lisa Solomon: Comfortable in my own artistic skin
In part one of our interview with artist Lisa Solomon, we explored her route into textiles and the range of techniques she currently employs.
Here, she tells us about the development of her work over the years and what or who currently inspires her to create.
Personal, witty and well constructed
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
You know… the inspiration question always gets to me because I feel like anything can inspire me. Lately on the list: my daughter, winter light, thimbles, a hummingbird zooming by, the idea of Spring.
In terms of other artists – that list is endless. Here’s a short list of all time favs: Ruth Asawa, Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois, Eve Hesse, Julie Merhetu, Tara Donovan, Toba Khedori.
I am always looking at other artists to see what they do and how they do it. I love when something takes my breath away and makes me stop/think. I think in general I look for artists who use materials in an interesting way. Negative space is always key, so is colour usage (or lack of colour). I like work that feels personal, that is witty, well constructed… thoughtful… I used to write a column for poppytalk about what art I would collect if I could. I only wrote about artists I admired. Click here to see the column.
Do you use a sketchbook?
Yes. I do. I need a place to put things – ideas, scraps, notes, etc. I also just sometimes want to draw something trivial.
I’m also a fan of daily practices. I’ve done several over the years.
- Look up and down: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisasolomon/sets/72157632101778530/
- Day-to-day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisasolomon/sets/72157629164096100/
- Drawing a day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisasolomon/sets/803513/
I also use Instagram; it’s like visual sketchbook and a place to document/record thoughts.
It ain’t fitting’ to be sitting’ without knittin’
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
I think one of my longtime favourite pieces is one that I made for my MFA show. I created a granny square blanket out of electrical wire and had my grandmother speaking out of it (with an on/off switch). I recorded her reading crochet instructions and captured the sound of knitting needles. It was one of the first times I really utilized a material in a way that it was both meant and not meant for (wire as yarn and wire for sound). It felt ambitious in terms of content and the amount of work it physically took me. And it was so sentimental since my grandmother was one of my biggest champions in terms of art. I titled it “it ain’t fittin’ to be sittin’ without knittin'” because that was a phrase my dad and uncle used to say to her when she would be sitting and knitting.
Mining my own history
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I hope my work has developed since I began! If I think about how it’s changed or how I approach my work now versus when I started I think I see some trends. I’m a much better draftsperson than I used to be. I remember struggling so hard to get a drawing “right” and now it comes much easier (although there are still struggles).
I think I feel much more comfortable in my own artistic skin – I don’t feel like I have to justify my love of negative space, how I use thread, or how I use colour – I trust my instincts more in those areas too. It’s much easier for me to envision how something is going to look or work out.
I’m less fearful of making work that is personal – it’s still abstract in that I might need to explain to you why it’s personal – but I’m more interested in mining my own history and discovering links to my own heritage.
The future? I honestly don’t know. I mean I’m sure I won’t all of a sudden become a concrete sculptor, but … over the years I have found that the work pretty much leads to the work – meaning if I just keep making the next idea comes. Sometimes it’s a big leap, sometimes it’s going back to something that suddenly feels unfinished, sometimes it’s just standing still and looking around.
Mostly I just need to keep working and try not to worry so much about evolution (which seems like a nice byproduct). That’s not to say I don’t want it to evolve – but I think I could get paralyzed with concerns about that.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
I think my advice to all aspiring artists – textile or not – is to be prepared to work really hard. To take risks. To fail. To find what really interests you and make that. To pay attention and to find a way to make – even when you don’t feel like it.
What are your top resources? Books, blogs etc.
- I’m a huge fan of The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker.
- Handmade Nation is also a great read/movie.
- I also really like By Hand – I re-found it in my studio the other day…
- I have a million Japanese Craft crochet books, and so many dover books on crochet and embroidery.
The internet itself is by far one of the best resources on the face of the planet. You can find anything right? How lucky are we…Let’s see – I don’t have as much time as I used to to just peruse around, but there are some go-to places that I can share.
- Of paper and things – I love her sensibility.
- Re-title – this amazing blog that lists all kinds of artist opportunities from around the world.
- My love for you is like a stampede of horses – she stopped blogging for awhile and then started and now seems to have stopped again – but the site is so rich if you are unfamiliar with it the archives alone are with their weight in gold.
- I’m also a huge fan of habit… it is such a lovely concept (one image, 30 or less words about your day from all kinds of thoughtful women). I just go there for a breath of fresh air and a means to slow down.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Oh. I have a thing for tools. I love tools. I can’t pick just one… all my embroidery supplies, my collection of crochet hooks, acrylic ink, gouache, coloured pencils, good scissors… I also love power tools and was excited to discover the Craftsman Bolt On – an interchangeable “drill” with all these other cool components.
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
I do! I currently teach at San Francisco State University, and I happen to also be doing a class at Cal State East Bay this winter quarter as well.
But I also do short workshops. And this spring I’m offering an online class with a friend Katrina Rodobaugh. It’s called Interwoven:: make: thread: art: craft and we’ll go over crochet, soft sculpture, embroidery, and mini quilts. You can visit http://interwoven-class.blogspot.com for more details.
I’ll be teaching an embroidered necklace workshop in San Francisco at MakeShift Society on February 5th. And the same class in Los Angeles at SewLa on February 22nd.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
You know – I’ve been SO fortunate to work with some really wonderful galleries and curators. When it comes to showing my work I mostly look to see what the space is like – how the work will actually look in the space. I want to show with people and in spaces that “get” the work. In a group show I’m looking to see who the other artists are and how our work is in conversation.
I have to say, though, most of the time it is so flattering when someone is enthusiastic about the work that I’ll show it with anyone who is interested. I do tend to go out of my way to show my work in educational settings.
Where can readers see your work this year ?
Right now I have a large drawing in a show entitled “Home – Shelter and Habitat in Contemporary Art” at the Schneider museum.
I also have some doily trees in a group show “Illusions of a Perfect Utopia” at Walter Maciel Gallery in Los Angeles.
In the Spring I’ll have some work at NIAD in a mini solo exhibition.
And later this year I’ll have a solo exhibition at Walter Maciel Gallery – in November. I’m going to do a different configuration of my 1000 doily project as well as more drawings along the same lines as my last exhibition Sen which was at Fouladi Projects.
To find out more about Lisa Soloman visit LisaSolomon.com.
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