Interview by Amanda Quinn Olivar, West Coast Editor
Los Angeles-based artist Megan Whitmarsh, born in 1972, works predominantly in textiles, using hand embroidery and fabric to create wall pieces and sculptural works which make reference to both contemporary and past cultural history. She has a concurrent collaborative practice with Jade Gordon creating videos, performances, installation and events which engage the community. Whitmarsh shows internationally in museums and galleries.
What was the aha moment that led you to art... and did Los Angeles play a part in your career decision?
I told my parents I was going to be an artist when I was 4 and never changed my mind. They seemed to take me seriously and did not challenge the idea and that probably helped!
How has living in LA informed your approach and aesthetic?
I think LA had more of an effect on me mentally and emotionally than aesthetically. I work in the same materials that I did when I moved here: textiles pieces and installations, with forays into film, video, animation and printed publications (zines and comics). My work’s center seems to be the same as well: uncovering or crafting constellations of meaning using personal and external sources and narratives. I think Los Angeles just amplified everything for me. Moving here from Brooklyn in 2001 meant: more contact with nature and being outside, which I find stimulating, less socializing, which I find concentrating, less pressure to fit existing structures, which I find liberating, as well as more space and more time (cheaper--less need to generate income). These were the elements LA provided that I found useful in cultivating my creative energies.
When and how did you first feel embraced by our LA art community?
Right away on a personal level. I found every artist I met to be friendly, generous and curious about what I was doing. Professionally it took a bit more time to make connections and become known but that seems normal. It takes time to build relationships and for people to know and see your work. I have always found opportunities to show in LA and feel there are plenty of channels one can operate on, which to me signifies a healthy and diverse artistic community.
The exhibition speaks about the vitality of our art community. Which pioneering LA artist influenced you the most? And whose work do you find intriguing right now?
It’s hard for me to think of a particular artist, although maybe Judy Chicago when she did Womanhouse with Miriam Schapiro. That whole project and the energy and ideas and community aspect of it feels very influential. I am interested in the Dwan Gallery and the artists she showed and the scene that was created. One of my all-time favorite artists for over 20 years has been Niki de St. Phalle and although not an ‘LA artist’ she left a big mark with her work in Southern California. She has a freedom and play in her work that feels very ‘California’ to me. Though not a visual artist, Joni Mitchell is a big influence. Artists I am interested in who are current include: Samara Golden, Lauren Halsey and Charles Long. They all feel like world builders and I like that especially when it feels personally driven while still linked to community forces.
What is your favorite art accident?
Maybe just the energy that comes from having deadlines and needing to commit and the radical risk-taking that comes along with that, which can lead to work that is more vulnerable, immediate and surprising. Not really an ‘accident’ but maybe it is, because I never intend to finish work at the last minute and yet I always do and that self-created pressure leads me to unexpected places.
Photo of Megan Whitmarsh: Sarah Soquel Morhaim
How They Ran
Over The Influence
August 12 - September 5, 2018