Thursday, June 4, 2009

Facebook Interview with Lisa Adams

The Probability of Imminent Events

We Destroyed The Things We Love

A Cause For Wandering

After The Deluge

The Original Avians

The following interview was done on Facebook. Lisa Adams is a painter and public artist who lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Ms. Adams graduated with a B.A. in Painting from Scripps College in Claremont, California and received her M.F.A. from the Claremont Graduate University. She currently teaches at UCLA.

Mario Vasquez
May 19 at 9:02pm
Let's start the interview with how you formulated your artistic approach. How did your work arrive at the portrayal of birds and nature? Were you always interested in the natural world?

Lisa Adams
May 28 at 8:37pm

As is true with most children, I began drawing and painting around three years old and at age ten saw a reproduction in a book of the Salvador Dali painting "The Persistence of Memory.” At that moment I knew I would be an artist and called myself one, even though I had no examples around me of what it meant to be an artist. I never wavered from that path.

I've been out of graduate school for almost thirty years. For about a decade or so in the eighties and nineties, I painted abstractly, using a variety of materials in addition to paint, such as wood and steel and other building materials purchased at Home Depot. In the mid- nineties my work naturally began to bump up against representational imagery. It took well over a decade to arrive at my current work, continuously honing and refining the images and techniques.

Even in my abstract work and especially in the transitional work, moving from abstraction to representation, I was interested in what I thought of at the time as an urbane person's idea of nature. The depiction of nature in my work was always somewhat skewed and idiosyncratic.

When I look back on my work from 1999 while on residency in Helsinki, I start to see the birds. It seems that the birds came up in the work as a result of living on the island of Soumelina, an island that is part of an archipelago in Helsinki Harbor. I was mostly alone there, working and surrounded by birds and water and the clear colors of green and blue. This particular residency had the most profound effect on me personally, as well as on my work, of any of the residencies I've done. It sincerely changed my life forever. To this day I still think about that place and recall it vividly. In some way, being there with the sole purpose of making my work must have given me permission to expand my interest in nature.

Currently, I am exploring the dystopic parts of nature as a through line. It happens to coincide with environmental concerns but I'm not sure that I consciously said to myself, "I'm going to paint about global warming and the polluted environment." Since my work was always a darkly imagined version of nature much of the imagery seems a fit for this era.

In part, there has always been an ominous feeling in my painting, not intentionally, but I think it's reflective of my background. My mother and my grandfather were both interned in concentration camps during the Nazi occupation in Germany, not for being Jewish but for being Gypsies. As I've come to learn, the Holocaust has a trans-generational effect and children of survivors seems to share similar experiences via their parents’ suffering.

My current work has come about over decades and simply by following my interests. It continues to elude me and I like that about it.

Mario Vasquez
June 2 at 9:21pm

Would you be comfortable if your work is considered environmental in its concerns and in its imagery?

Lisa Adams
June 2 at 10:09pm

Yes I think that's fair to say but the work has a timeless theme as well which is rooted in the subconscious.

Mario Vasquez
June 2 at 10:16pm

So as the environment becomes a greater issue, what do you see your work accomplishing when it comes to the viewer?

Lisa Adams
June 2 at 10:36pm

My work seems to be an enigma for the viewer regardless of the environmental issues.

The viewer is presented with a collection of images many of which are from the natural world. The way in which the paintings are composed usually evokes some sort of narrative and though I have my own thoughts about what that narrative might be, each person brings with them their own projected lifetime of experiences. In this way the work summons up a unique and personal experience for each viewer regarding the possibilities of an environmental dystopia.

It would follow that, by arriving at ones own conclusions about the painting's narrative, the story would have greater impact because it is a story the viewer conjures for her or himself based on the visual prompts of an environment gone wrong before our very eyes. My hope is that the paintings would have a powerful impact on the viewer in this way.

Mario Vasquez
June 2 at 10:43pm

In other words, the viewer looks at references from his own experience and then formulates the relationship between nature, the images and the environmental issues presented.

Last Question for the readers.
What are you doing next? Any shows soon?

Lisa Adams
Today at 5:44am
Yes that's correct and I'm hoping since the viewer creates the narrative that the impact of the work is greater per individual and less about a didactic premise.

I'm currently working on two large paintings, one 5 x 12 ft and the other 6 x 10 ft, for inclusion in an exhibition at the Riverside Art Museum entitled "Edenistic Divergence," curated by Andi Campognone-Couwenberg, which opens November 21, 2009.

In September of 2010 I have a solo exhibition at Michael Rosenthal Gallery in San Francisco and this December Michael will be taking my work to Miami Basel.

September 2011, I will be having a solo exhibition with Lawrence Asher Gallery in Los Angeles.


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