Sunday, May 9, 2010

Email Interview with Artist Maya Lujan

From: Mario Vasquez
To: Maya Lujan
Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 9:36 PM
Let's start with some background about you. Tell me about where you started and what attracted you to being an artist.

From: Maya Lujan
To: Mario Vasquez
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 11:46:14 -0700
Well, the term "attracted to be an artist" implies that I made a specific decision at some point to be an artist. Rather, once it became fully apparent to me, I consciously implemented steps and worked hard to make it a reality. I considered doing other things, such as nursing or even acting, but there was just always more of a concentration on doing what I needed to do and learning everything I possibly could about art and art-making. I also realized very early on that I despised being objectified or regarded for reasons other than my ideas and intellect. I tend to spend a lot of focused time alone, either working with my hands or working through ideas via research, reading and writing. So it makes sense this way, and I am able to make sense. -M

From: Mario Vasquez
To: Maya Lujan
On Mar 18, 2010, at 11:58 AM,
Then would you say that art was a vehicle to do what you love and as a result being an artist was incidental?

From: Maya Lujan
To: Mario Vasquez
21 Mar 2010 11:08:10 -0700
I think it's more of the fact that engaging in an art practice provides me with a vehicle to keep learning about things I already know about and things I want to learn more about.  Also, there is always a direct focus regarding my work and ideas, quite different from incidental.  -M

From: Mario Vasquez
To: Maya Lujan
Date: Sunday, March 21, 2010, 9:56 PM
Thank you. Let's now talk about your work and the ideas behind your work. In your MFA show, in particular both the art work and the artist's book, and even in your most recent work at the Pacific Design Center, the art work centered around the theme and ideas of space exploration. Were you always interested in space? and science fiction? Did you ever want to be an astronaut?

From: Maya Lujan
To: Mario Vasquez
Date: Monday, March 22, 2010, 10:10 PM
Of course I want to be an astronaut! Who doesn't?
I think astronauts and science fiction are fun and endlessly fascinating. Although the shuttle program for the US is ending there is still the possibility that space travel may soon be in our common reality and consciousness again. But these subjects are really another discussion regarding psychology and fitness and even current states of economies and lack of progress.

I am a space explorer. That may include resolving the contained space in a 3.4'x 5' wooden substrate, the delineation of an 18' high angled ceiling, the negative space in between large text or the mental space that it takes in (mind-image) abstraction translation.

So the spatiality may be ontological, like a question as to how the space "out there" extends beyond and is different from the space within. It may be more scientifically based, for example right now, my questions are concerned more with the space located inside a mass or object and even the gaps or intervals in-between designated areas of space (these are integral to concepts of vast space).

The concept of space exploration allows for an endless scope of queries beyond what I find to be tiresome and reductive contemporary discourses.


From:     Mario Vasquez
To:       maya lujan
Date:     Tuesday, March 23, 2010, 8:52 PM
I wanted to be an astronaut also. In fact I was hoping that one day I would be the captain of the Enterprise. So space is not just a term that relates to the "space" outside of Earth, i.e. the solar system, stars, planets, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc... It is about the "space" that is explored in the areas that make up the physical. The space in between? Is there a mystical or metaphysical aspect in your work?

From:      maya lujan
To:     Mario Vasquez
Date:     Sunday, March 28, 2010 9:59 PM
No not really.

Although I do consider, conservatively, the metaphysical capabilities of an art object. Meaning; energy, real energy, concerned with theoretical explanations of being. This energy is not just regarding evidence of  labor invested in the work but a potential or shamanistic energy latent in the object. This would be based on the power of certain symbols, especially those used over and over again throughout time.

Regarding the energy or space in between, here is something I wrote (for personal use) for some work I have up at Glendale Community College called Spatial Intervals.

"In Spatial Intervals, the structural system reveals that interval space is integrally woven within all objects. In the sculpture, the fusion of the axial planes verify the particular theory that ultimately, there is no empty space or space without a field, as all open fields are "filled". In this field of force, atoms race through space in parallel lines, assuring their discreteness and possibility of motion. There is also visual noetic that makes reference to weight as a force that measures how strongly gravity pulls on matter."

I am interested in the facts. Facts merge into the metaphysical and are often based on conjecture.

From: Mario Vasquez
To: Maya Lujan
Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 8:56 PM
Let's now talk about what happened a few years ago at the Wight Biennial at UCLA. First, describe the work that created the controversy.


From:      Maya Lujan
Sent:     Mon 4/05/10 4:20 PM
To:     Mario Vasquez
These are what the work was based on:

1. Spatial considerations

2. Cryptic qualities (in that there is always the potential towards open possibility within a discussion of exhaustion and specific visual cues towards concepts that deal with this subject).

3. The bed is always the foundation of creative thinking. It is the source, the point of origination, and where we ultimately expire.

4. Windows looking out into a vast expanse and notions of the traditional gaze within painting.

5. Considerations of the insurgent power dynamics that are present within architecture.

6. Sex and sculpture/ architecture in that the mathematical equations used to make models and the logic used for architecture are sexy.

We then went to the gallery and figured out where the installation would be located. There was a really great black line on the wall (a permanent vent/ you can see it in the photo) that was the beginning of the construction of ideas around the proposal. We also submitted a statement saying this regarding what we were thinking of making (At this point we were still having fun);

We will construct a geometric white form that starts to connect with a black shell of an organic shape, that one walks around to view. We mutually utilize the concept of noir, and will show black velvet paintings. (This is the beginning of the mandala). The paintings will serve to navigate the sculpture. We want the work to be experiential and the cumulative experience, we foresee, will be centrifugal with the intention of the viewer being sucked into a tactile, sensual mode of perception. Last, there will also be a space shuttle bunk bed specifying utilitarian Modernist underpinnings. What both our works have in common are taking on the inherent polemics and gender- sexual particulars of whatever space we work in. We always need a lot of room to work in as we frequently address ideas of scale. We want to really use and consider the space of installation.

Of course, the work really turned out to be something else. Kristen became overwhelmed by the project and decided to opt for exotic travel and self-improvement, so I finished producing the remainder of the exhibition myself.

At this point I had become very focused and serious about the project and it changed a lot.

One thing about this whole situation is that the work never got a fair level of critical consideration due to the controversy that overshadowed it. Also, I am willing to talk about it now and feel like I have moved on, learned and evolved, but there are still things I would like to see happen as a result. Perhaps if I were a different type of person, my career could of been severley damaged by fear and negligence. -M

From:     Mario Vasquez
Sent:     Mon 4/05/10 8:09 PM
To:     Maya Lujan
Catherine Wagley in her blog posting on art21 Blog ( entitled "Crying Wolf" referred to the controversy as a " fairly small one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not indicative of what often happens when artwork becomes the focus of press-fueled debate." She went on to state that "(the) story could certainly be (and has been, for a handful of bloggers and art writers) the basis for some age-old conversations about censorship, the power of symbols, the artist’s freedom of expression, the license of curators, etc. But what if these are just default issues that become easy to talk about whenever art “controversies” arise? Swastikas are  loaded symbols and censorship certainly has a sordid history, but what happened in a small, student-curated exhibition full of emerging artists is likely a little more complicated." She concludes her posting by stating that, "Art, especially thoughtful art, should be difficult. It should take time. It should be experienced, considered and reconsidered, before it’s really done its job. The problem with the over-simplification that usually accompanies art world controversies is that the art doesn’t get its due."

What is your response?

From:      Maya Lujan
To:     Mario Vasquez
Well, I completely agree.
I still think that the meaning of the work has yet to be discovered and become apparent.
Perhaps it has set a new template as far as other works using the same symbology.
I know for a fact than an artist named Greta Svalberg had a piece up last year for the  UCLA MFA show with swastika's on pillows in the same gallery. Nobody found it offensive and it certainly wasn't censored. I am really glad for that, as it indicates that there may have been some manner of evolution and acknowledgment of history. It indicates a  better change of the politics of the UCLA Broad Gallery.

There are still unresolved issues, as far as I'm concerned.

From:      Mario Vasquez
To:     Maya Lujan
There has been a few years since the controversy erupted, what are your thoughts about it since?

From:      Maya Lujan
Sent:     Sun 4/11/10 10:01 AM
To:     Mario Vasquez
I want it to be understood that I legal action could of been a facile in this case. My VARA rights were blatantly trespassed upon and I had several legal organizations encourage me to take action.
This was not the direction I chose, for several reasons. For one, I am neither vindictive nor crazy in the sense that I didn't want to ex-communicate myself from certain art communities (after going to school for eight years).
Ultimately, I didn't want to cause any harm to the students in the program. In other words, take from the already tight funding of the program. I was still a student myself, so I acutely understood this.

Also, Russell Ferguson has yet to properly take any real responsibility and issue a real, visible apology. I wonder if the levity of this situation has even dawned on him.

One thing Christopher Knight mentioned in his article, was a quote in Mein Kampf, in which Hitler described the Nazis' flag: "In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work, which as such always has been and always will be anti-Semitic."

So in Ferguson's attempt to pacify/ shield and not offend he actually ended up re-affirming the definition provided by Hitler! He also inadvertently provided a window into he power dynamics of that particular faction of the LA art world and legitimized the conservative politics of it through the act of censorship.

From: Mario Vasquez
To: Maya Lujan
Date: Thursday, April 15, 2010, 10:17 PM
So final question, what are you working on now? Are you going to be showing anywhere soon?

From:      Maya Lujan
Sent:     Mon 4/19/10 2:01 PM
To:     Mario Vasquez
Right now I am working on curatorial projects at Jancar Gallery, particularly those in the summer and I have a solo exhibition coming up in the fall.

The next logical phase of my work would be based on my research from previous shows starting from Spatial Extensions then Intervals. Extensions was concerned with the nature of being as represented by groups of objects and one's relationship to them and movement around them. Intervals dealt with a spatial definition contained within the actual object itself as defined by the objects and space around the singular sculpture.

So the new work seems to consider the gaps of space both within the material and external points of connection.

The Gap (tentatively titled) will be based in nuance and deep expansion with a porous description of extension, (permeated by all bodies) and intervals (integral in any structure or number set) or the sum off all gaps.

But this could all change and end up being something totally different - what I can be sure of is that the work will offer a very serious reverence to painting and is a way for me to really test the limits of paint as a material.

Thank you so much.






List of Works. 
1. White Magic and Xanadu, 2008, as part of The Wight Biennial, Eli and Edith Broad Gallery, UCLA
Black velvet painting on the wall in the shape of a mandala, sprayfoam, carved Polyurethane Foam and Resin, paint, wood, feather bedding, cotton, Bismuth, Optical Calcite, Selenite, and sounds derived from the Aurora Borealis.

2. (detail) Spatial Extensions, 2010, 3.4' x 5' (6 Total).
Materials; Foamcore, tapes, various paints, wrapping paper, silver and copper leaves, chromolux, gift bags, stickers, gravity, and remnant wood pieces from a Neanderthal diorama.

3. Intervals, 2010, approximately 4'X5'
Black line on wall aproximately 15'X1", red oak wood, semi-transparent glass, water glass, paint.

4. (detail) Intervals, 2010, approximately 4'X5'
Black line on wall aproximately 15'X1", red oak wood, semi-transparent glass, water glass, paint.

5. & 6. Spatial Extensions, 2010, 3.4' x 5' (6 Total).
Materials; Foamcore, tapes, various paints, wrapping paper, silver and copper leaves, chromolux, gift bags, stickers, gravity, and remnant wood pieces from a Neanderthal diorama.

All images courtesy of the artist.

No comments:

(Photo Essay) Frieze Los Angeles 2020, Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California

Frieze Los Angeles ushered in its second edition as part of an expanded Frieze Week that celebrated Los Angeles’ art community at Par...