An Artsy Interview with Lela Graham

2 Feb

Here is an online interview that I have done with the most wonderful artist Lela Graham.  She will soon be having her own show in the Looking Glass, which is in the Student Union, starting February 9th, 2010 till March 2nd, 2010.  The reception for this show will be February 26th at 7pm – 8pm  Lela’s work is so mysterious when first viewed.  The way the clay figures stare away and at you almost sets you up into a daydream to question what they’re thinking, wondering, pondering…  What are these created beings doing in this world and what makes the artist tick?

Angie: First off, what inspired you with your little lady series of clay figures?

Lela: I came up with the figures while creating my Senior BFA show last spring. I had originally planned on making a series of woodblock prints but quickly abandoned that. For the first month of the semester I did nothing but play in my studio. I was fortunate enough to have access to a private room next to the print shop (the unofficial bookarts room). There are a few tables in there and a computer. This space is the reason my show was such a success, I am convenced. I spent at least 5 hours a day in that room for the whole semester. But back to the story. I started thinking about things that remind me about my family, what the piece is about. My mom collects those russian maturshka dolls, so I started drawing them. I wanted to incorporate clay into bookmaking into print but had no idea what to do. Then I started drawing these little faces on foamcore board and cutting them out. Then it just kind of took off from there. I counted and by the end of this past semester, I’ve made over 100 of these little figures.

Angie: What’s the significance of the color, shapes, the way the look and dress?

Lela: Well they don’t really dress, they are just figures. They’ve been compared to tombstones or pillars. I just think they look like a Islamic Woman in Hijab or a Nun in a Wimple (head covering). This is what I was mainly going for. I am facinated by the idea of a woman covering her head. This was one of the most important things I thought about while working, What would a woman cover her head? What does it mean?

The original ladies are raw terra cotta clay because I am in love with the look of raw clay after its been fired. That was just a personal atheistic decision.

Angie: If you could choose one artist to talk to, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you want to talk about?

Lela: Oh goodness…I guess Frida Khalo or the cavewoman who painted in the Pech Merle cave in France. Frida because I want to hear her voice and see her body braces. I know her work so well and have heard her story so many times, but I would just want to know more about what it was like to really be her. To see what she lived with in her own body and how she delt with it. I love the Pech Merle cave (its the one with the spotted horses and outlined hands) I want to know about those horses.

But mostly I would like to meet my Nanny, whom Im named after. She was a quilter, a great quilter. Back home I have been stopped by people in the grocery store asking if I am any relation to Lela Roberts. She died before I was born of cancer. I would love to meet her.

Angie: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a Studio Art major?

Lela: If there is anything else you have ever thought about doing, anything else in the whole world that would make you happy, do that instead. If you think you’d be just as happy as an accountant or marketing agent, do that. Do anything but this. But if you wake up in the morning and think ‘oh man, studio time’ or if your greatest fear is breaking your dominate hand because you wouldn’t be able to draw again, then art is for you. If your not scared to not have a job or not be respected by people or to be a failure, then be an artist. If you can’t think of anything else you could do, not ANYTHING, then be an artist.

Angie: Is there any deep connection that you get when creating your art?

Lela: I mean, it makes me happy. I can work for 10 hours straight and not even realize I haven’t eaten the whole time I love it so much.

Angie: Have you recently been experimenting with your art? If so with what, and if not have you been coming up with some new ideas?

Lela: Because I dont have access to studio space right now (im student teaching) I have been playing around with different book bindings and sewings. I have been thinking of “the next thing” and I think I am going to make more figures, but less abstracted ones. This time they’ll have arms haha

Angie: Lastly, what’s your favorite color and why?

Lela: Cerulean Blue! I didn’t have a name for that color until I saw “the devil wears proda” and the main character said that was the name of the color. I had a beta fish that color too

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