The work of ceramic artist Linda Lopez is deeply influenced by mundane objects and the everyday. Her objects and sculptures are currently on view at booth E10 of the Mindy Solomon Gallery at VOLTA New York. In the following interview with Sabrina Möller, Lopez talks about the important personal influences on her art and process.
You often use mundane everyday objects, such as pieces of furniture or potted plants in your works. Why are they so interesting to you? Where do you draw the inspiration for your works from?
My inspiration comes from mundane moments in everyday life. My work revolves around these moments that we often overlook. I believe this all stems from my childhood: my mother, a Vietnamese refugee, and my father, a Mexican immigrant, spoke very little English and communication at home was minimal. When my mother would describe things to me, she would say things like: “Linda, don’t put too much toilet paper in the toilet or the toilet will choke.” This is how she would animate the inanimate, which impacted my perspective on the objects around me. I then started to develop relationships with these mundane things. That’s where it all began: with the ability to notice all the small things instead of having them just on the periphery of my life.
How would you describe your creative process? Do you have an idea in your head that you then work on, or do you make a drawing of the object first?
Most of my work is deeply influenced by place, especially my current place of residence. Usually my creative process starts with absurd moments in reality or with whatever catches my attention. I tend to take photographs of these strange moments that I encounter. I then use these images for drawings or a loose model for sculptures. I am never quite sure what comes first: the drawing or the sculpture. They seem to inform each other in a symbiotic relationship. My practice requires me to loosen my grip on reality and allow myself to drift into an almost fictional world to believe that something is happening or turning into something else.
Such as when you step back for a moment and look at a chair without thinking of it as a chair, you may begin to understand it for what it actually is. I create objects that float between reality and a nonsensical world. Fiction plays a large role in my practice, such as Miranda July’s short stories. Her ability to change our perception of what one is experiencing is mesmerizing. She pushes our understanding of reality in contrast to experience.
There is a certain organic aspect to your works. You show everyday objects as if they were alive. Why do you frequently portray the organic in negative ways such as tumors or aberrant growths, as you did in your work “Armchair with Lipoma”?
These drawings were an early attempt to understand objects. I was diving into the pathetic fallacy by John Ruskin. This theory animates the inanimate by giving human characteristics to things. It most often occurs in language. For example, “when the wind blows” or “when the ocean roars”. When I was first trying to grasp this idea, I was literally giving everyday objects human characteristics by portraying them with tumors or showing their “organs”. I was interested in the unseen aspects of objects and exploring their untold stories.
You work primarily with ceramics, which is something you have been trained in. To what extent is the physical process important to you? How does it define your work?
I’ve been trained in ceramics since my undergraduate degree and I’ve always thought of ceramics as a material. The universities I attended were all interdisciplinary and encouraged the use of any material that I saw fit for an idea. Lately, I have been using clay as my main material, but I’ve also been using mixed media as needed. I love clay for its unique characteristic of being able to take any form.
Would you consider using more contemporary techniques such as 3D printing? How do you reckon would that change your work?
I would be open to using 3D printing, but I don’t know how beneficial it would be to my work at the moment. I’m creating a still life, a paused moment, a place where I can reach an understanding of the world. To recreate something that I’ve seen is an interpretation of the thing. It’s my way of trying to understand this object through a creative process. Allowing a machine to produce what I’m trying to understand might push me further away from understanding the thing rather than bringing me closer to seeing what it really is.
What makes you choose the objects that you incorporate into your still lifes? Could you tell me more about how you position these objects and the relationship between them?
The compositions of the objects and the relationships between them usually revolve around the title of the pieces, which serve as foundations for the ensuing narrative construction. I keep a log of titles that come up when I’m listening to a podcast, reading a book, or listening to music. I keep a blank piece of paper on my studio wall and when I hear a captivating phrase, I write it down. These phrases, which become titles, tell me how the objects are going to interact with each other within the compositions.
Your forms are very organic. However, you chose very artificial colors, which seems contradictory. They create a certain tension. Is this a conscious aesthetic choice? What do you intend to achieve?
The color usually has to do with the narrative and how it can enhance what is happening in the still life. I spend many hours contemplating just the slightest shift in hues, often attempting to push and pull a color, making something pop, or camouflaging the object in the space. Usually I’m trying to convey some sort of narrative that I have thought of. But it depends on the studio day. That gives me the idea of how the objects are going to interact with each other within the whole composition.
What do you intend to achieve with your work?
My work is about me trying to understand the world around me. It’s an attempt to unlearn everything I know about things. I want to be able to walk down a street and look at a tree, and see something completely new. Similar to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, I want to question the understanding of the objects in the cave and the objects outside the cave. Which one is real and which one is the shadow? I want the viewer as well as myself to experience the world with fresh eyes and a little slower. Another reason why I enjoy reading Miranda July’s stories is because I can anticipate July‘s replacement of mundane, slow-paced moments with the unexpected and surprising. I hope the viewer experiences something similar when looking at my works.
// Sabrina Möller
MINDY SOLOMON GALLERY