Interview by Amanda Quinn Olivar, West Coast Editor
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Diane Wedgeworth is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is rooted in storytelling. Informed by personal narratives, her work takes form as painting, video, installation, performance, photography and archived oral histories. From 2015-2016, she exhibited emerging artists in her studio-based project space, PS 2920, formerly located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Lisa was recently an art fellow at The Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood, Florida and is currently an artist in residence at Camera Obscura in Santa Monica through November 2018.
What was the aha moment that led you to art... and did Los Angeles play a part in your career decision?
I am a native Angeleno, so my roots are here in Los Angeles. Everything about my life in 1970s and 1980s Los Angeles was informed by my mother's creative spirit which created a home that gave us the freedom and permission to be creative. My mother's desire for her children to be exposed to art and culture, coupled with living in Los Angeles which provided access to spaces where art was exhibited and made, created an environment ripe for nurturing a young artist.
Art was very accessible during my childhood. My sister and I rode the bus to the Barnsdall Art Center to take classes and during elementary school, I'd stay indoors during recess to make doll houses out of cardboard boxes while my friends played outside. Between Saturday morning Looney Tunes cartoons, I learned the names of artists from the Norton Simon Museum commercials featuring Candice Bergen. I loved reciting the script with her, "The finest artists are here Rembrandt, Monet, Raphael, Cézanne, Zurbarán, Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Goya, Picasso and hundreds of others." I had no idea who these artists were, but their names and the images of their work mesmerized me.
Since art and the notion of making, of being creative has always existed in my life, I don't have a specific aha moment. Yet, at the age of 40, after having taught art to incarcerated youth and working in corporate America, I knew deep in my soul that I was an artist and returning to school to earn my MFA was imperative for my life and was a step towards claiming my creativity and making my mark as an artist. I was spending a lot of time with Varnette Honeywood--an LA artist whose wonderful collages and prints were seen in the home of the Huxtables on The Cosby Show--and she encouraged me to apply to graduate school, she wrote my letter of recommendation.
When and how did you first feel embraced by our LA art community?
I don't know if embraced is the right word, nor can I acknowledge a "when." It feels as if I woke up one day and realized, "I know a lot of people and opportunities seem to be coming my way, so I must be in the art world."
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?
Honestly, I didn't know about pioneering LA artists when I was learning about art. In my twenties, I was very adventurous and took myself on art escapades throughout the city where I frequented the Fahey Klein Gallery, Iturralde Gallery, Alitash Kebede Gallery and the Jan Baum Gallery where I first saw the paintings of Lezley Saar (whose work I encountered before her mother Betye Saar). I was excited to learn about her work, for it was the first time I saw paintings that combined traditional and non-traditional materials (rope, lace and fabric), and based on the imagery I could tell (regardless of skin color) that the subjects were black people or black women. I remember being afraid to ask if the artist was a black woman, so I just assumed she was, since black people tend to include black people in their paintings. It filled me with such a sense of pride knowing a black woman was exhibiting her work on LaBrea in such a prestigious gallery.
Outsider/Self-taught artists and the painter Suzanne Jackson. There is a freedom that I love and am attracted to with outsider art. It is a freedom I want to maintain as I work. Suzanne Jackson's luscious acrylic wash paintings made in the '70s move me in a way that I can't describe with words.
What is your favorite art accident?
HMMM...[smiling] I am still exploring and growing with my favorite art accident. Let's just say, I was preparing my canvas to work and I did something to it, and after painting, when the paint dried... I saw a result that initially rattled me (I have issues with perfection), then I embraced it.
Photo of Lisa Diane Wedgeworth: Glen Wilson
How They Ran
Over The Influence
August 12 - September 5, 2018