Local Talk - Q+A with Local West Coast Artist Dolores Lusitana

We're so thrilled to have you post at the shop and thank you for being so accommodating in shipping the images!  West Coast images in an East Coast space brings me happiness as we're all California dreamin' to some degree. How do you think about one coast vs. the other from an artistic perspective? 

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I was first drawn to photography while living in New York City from 1981-1997. I’ve always thought of the city as a people laboratory - everyone combating the pressures of city life, the weather, the fierce professional competition, yet somehow all interdependent in those struggles. There’s an underlying humanity that I don’t experience in the same way on the west coast. California offers a more idealized lifestyle; grand, expansive landscapes, lots of sunshine with a cultural slant towards leisure. They’re completely different ways of life. Despite being a native Californian and grateful for the relative ease here (sans the earthquakes and fires..) I’ve always felt more at home on the east coast, more alive and inspired. Perhaps ironically, I think now of New York as a periodic B12 shot, my place for ideas and inspiration, and California the place where I can hunker down without distraction and get the work done.

 

Your prints, 'A deeper look at the Venice Beach Canals' provides us with a glimpse into a special place in southern California. Why did you select this area as your focus? 

I’d stopped shooting for a time and started my business, Situation Book. I was spending a lot of time behind the computer, and starting to feel a little hollow for abandoning my own creativity. The Venice Beach Canals were within walking distance from my home and I decided to take my camera for an outing - shooting for the first time in a couple of years. I had no objectives, no real intention of making images, I just let myself walk and shoot anything and everything that caught my eye. I found the reflections in the canal waters really beautiful and started making photographs - mostly figurative images, watery reversals of the many white bridges that intersect the walkways, the towering palm trees, the people walking by. They appeared like impressionistic watercolors and it made me happy to be outside in that quiet little enclave of peace and nature hidden inside Silicon Beach. I liked those images enough to continue going back.  

It wasn’t until I starting noticing the full-frame abstractions on my computer screen that the WATERCOLORS project began. I saw things that I hadn’t in my viewfinder, and discovered that by shooting more instinctually I was creating work I found more interesting. That’s when I began to see my photographs more like abstract paintings - and I focused on that approach going forward.

Do you often work with reflections or was this approach inspired by the environment?

I’ve always been more fascinated with people in social situations, how they each inhabit a given space together, than abstract or landscape driven photography. This work came out of my need to reconnect with the natural world and not think too much. What I saw in the water was just an unexpected gift.

The reflections on the Canals are created by wind and tides and ambient light, so you never really know what you’re going to encounter, and that reinforced my inability to control the situation. The source of all the reflections are inherently the same since they’re from the homes, buildings, gardens that line the walkways. But, they’re constantly morphing in shape and color given environmental factors. The lesson for me was to stay open. There was one day when the wind was so high that I thought nothing was achievable. But that day ended up yielding a number of interesting frames, including the image I call WINGS which is at LOCAL now.

How have these images provided you with a deeper understanding and appreciation of this landscape? 

I think good landscape photography is incredibly difficult. Taking a photo of a sunset is relatively easy, but in most cases I believe the viewer is reacting to the splendor of nature rather than the artistry of the photographer. To capture how a landscape makes the artist feel, to imbue the absolute beauty of nature with an individual human emotion, that’s not easy. At least not for me. The appreciation and understanding I’ve gleaned from this work is more about the origins of perception - how and why we all see things differently. I perceive very distinct scenes or images within these photos - rather than strictly water reflections. Other people often see very different things - which makes me happy.  I try and leave them open to interpretation - and encourage people to reposition them vertically and horizontally to their liking.

 

As a self-taught artist, what can you tell other individuals who would like to pursue an artistic endeavor OR career?

I do believe that everyone should have some kind of creative pursuit - no matter what it is - something that can never be mastered but always improved upon and made more and more your own. You learn a tremendous amount about yourself in the process, and it will always provide you with something to work at, hopefully share with others, and get joy from. I hope I’m still working at something creative when I’m old and blind.

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If I can offer any advice (and I’m not sure that I or any other artist is really qualified) it’s that we all experience the world differently, uniquely - and that’s what you want your art to reflect. And I believe that can only be achieved by process, time, and personal honesty, not strictly technical savvy. Craft - as applied to digital photography - can be crucial to expanding your visual vocabulary, but if you don’t dig into your own creative process it can override your vision. I try not to seek validation from others, which is hard. I look for something that speaks to me, perhaps even for me, and keep at it. If I’m really onto something, and keep at it, it will evolve. And hopefully it will eventually start to disappoint me. That discomfort is the challenge you need to move forward. I like to think of this period as “growing pains” - both in the creative process and in life in general.

 

What other artists within or outside your primary discipline do you look to for inspiration?

In my earliest days my photographic muses were people like Helen Levitt, Louis Faurer, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, Bresson…the usual street art suspects. Later, I discovered the magic of color documentary when I found a book by William Albert Allard in a bookshop in NYC near Houston. Blew my mind. I then sought out the work of the great National Geographic shooters:, Sam Abell, James Nachtwey, Gerd Ludwig, Eugene Richards, Alex Webb. Now I’m more drawn to the artists, mostly painters, of an earlier time. The European Impressionists and Beat Contemporaries. Odilon Redon always take my breath away.  As does Erik Satie.  And kids. Watch for how little children see the world - and look for that perspective.

 

What's next? What other projects are you currently working on?

Right now I’m focused mostly on getting this work out into the world a bit more. I’ve really just started showing it.

I’ve also started playing around with some light abstractions taken from the windows of my mother’s bedroom. She’s 92 now, and sleeps a great deal; her room is often dark but for the light creeping through the windows. It’s a tricky subject, but it feels like there’s something there.  Maybe not.  We’ll see.

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Any other thoughts to share?

There is beauty all around us in every day things. Spend some quiet time in nature; it can nourish you in ways that nothing else can.  And, thank you for this opportunity. I hope your customers find some pleasure in the work.

Thank you!

See more of Dolores’ work at https://www.doloreslusitana.com/about/

 

 

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Local Talk - Q+A with artist Cathy LeCleire

We're so thrilled to have you post at the shop - both as a friend and accomplished artist. At what age did you first know that you had the interest and desire to take your thoughts and create something?

I’m probably showing my age but the first time I realized that art could be anything you wanted it to be was going to the World’s Fair in Queens and seeing Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans and Claus Oldenburg’s huge fan made out of vinyl. I really felt I could be an artist too.

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What were the first projects that you worked on?

I’m not sure of my first project because there are probably so many. I’m a printmaker so that means I work in multiples. I first went to college and studied Political Science and went back to Art School after I graduated. I feel my first projects tended to be political in nature. Printmaking has always had a political background because it was always about protest and bringing information to the masses.


How did you take this interest and apply to greater learnings at the educational level?

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I have always enjoyed teaching and found I was good at it. Educational institutions are the greatest place for pollination and stimulation. I find my students are my greatest inspiration and I hope my mentoring and encouragement leads to greater creativity of ideas.


So, you now teach  printmaking and book art techniques  at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Given that the world has become more and more digital - how has your craft evolved?

Printmaking is always evolving and taking on contemporary mediums. We embrace the digital age with dot screens, filmmaking, zines, etc. Students are always looking for the printed word as social media. They print large editions many times that are mass-produced and can have an immediate response. I think many printmakers are at the forefront of the digital age but also enjoy traditional methods such as etching, lithography and screenprinting.

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As a teacher, what is the most interesting thing you have learned from your students?

It took me a while to trust my students and allow them to make mistakes. I once received the best evaluation from a student. She said I did too much for the student and I should let them fail because failing is the best way of learning. So now I always say “have fun and make mistakes!”


Please tell us about the work you have so graciously offered here at Local - Endangered Species.

I have recently been interested in the dangers of plastic and the fact that it cannot decompose. By using it as a printing surface I created a mural of animals that I feel are in danger of disappearing. With the use of contemporary, unmistakable and repeated images combined with global awareness, I have created statements of the ecological consequences in our daily lives.


What's next? What other projects are you currently working on?

I shouldn’t say but I’m back to political art in these dangerous times. I’ve been making sashes like what the suffragettes wore in pink with slogans for issues such as gun control, women’s rights, me too movement, etc. And as with printmaking they are controversial!

Learn more about Cathy here

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