Reconstructing Experiences: Interview with Lisa Wicka
Lisa Wicka received her BFA from the University of Central Florida, and MFA from Purdue University. Her work has shown both national and internationally in solo and group exhibitions, and is in many public and private collections. She actively participates in artist residencies around the world including Sparkbox Studios (Canada), Ålgården Workshop (Sweden) and Officina Stamperia del Notaio (Sicily). Her experiences traveling and living throughout the US have greatly inspired her practice. Wicka currently resides in Marinette, WI where she is the Assistant professor of Art at the UW Colleges.
We live in the spaces...
between past and present,
between empty and occupied,
between mind and body,
between physical and virtual,
between tangible and lost,
between loneliness and love,
between exposed and hidden.
Through the breakdown and rebuilding of the in-between, my work mimics the everyday navigation of these realms. Temporary moments of clarity come together and fall apart, creating a self in motion, evolving through experience, place, failures and successes. My work is a surface where this dialogue becomes visible explorations of my surroundings and my identity, a surrogate self with limitless possibilities.
Often referencing architectural spaces, wallpapers, and raw materials, my work brings into question the solidity and accuracy of things we hold true. Printmaking, drawing, and mixed media methods allow me to acknowledge my experiences, dissect them, and reconstruct them into something concrete, if only for a moment.
Interview by Sarah Mills
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a new series of work Along the Way while continuing to work on my series, Focus. Along the Way is made up of fragments that incorporate patterns, textures, and in most cases, some little legs interacting with the construction. Focus is a series I started a few years ago, where I build miniature abstracted domestic spaces and photograph them in various locations. These photos then become a part of an interactive piece that invites the viewer to have their own intimate experience. (See short video clip.)
What is the inspiration behind your current series?
In my artist statement, I talk about my work as a surface where the dialogue between my surroundings and myself can take place, as if a surrogate form. With this new work, I am reflecting on transitional spaces, and how one functions in them. These spaces are in-betweens, such as trains, cars, etc… but I also draw connections to the space that exists on our digital platforms. Both types of space feel heavy and physical; they take up space and time and are often occupied, but at the same time can be lonely. This new series is about existing within them, recognizing their rules and limitations, and finding yourself (even if only temporarily) in those moments. A number of things have brought me to this series, but primarily it stems from my last three years in a fairly remote location in the Midwest. This being my first location post grad school, I went from having a network of artists, friends, and resources within my reach to having a lot of physical distance from these things. I am learning to rely more on communications online, staying up-to-date through Facebook, and other resources, and traveling whenever I can. This means that I am mostly isolated, with bursts of New York, Philadelphia, or Chicago, where I try to soak up as much of my surroundings as much as possible, as if I could store it like a camel. This approach has given me the time to reflect on both ends of this experience and evaluate this balance that we all try to create in one way or another.
Tell us about your process when you start a new piece.
At this point, very rarely am I starting a piece totally from scratch; I have built up a large collection of screen printed patterns, monoprints, drawings, wood shapes, etc. and they often make their way into my work. The patterns I create are often reflections of past experiences or are reminiscent of an existing pattern from my everyday. I work like a collage artist, so for the most part when I am drawing or printing my patterns, I am creating flat sheets that will be cut up, folded, layered along the way. My sketchbook is filled with shapes and notes more than anything, and I can pretty confidently say I never know what the piece is really going to look like when I start it. I have found this way of working allows the more controlling side of me to have a say in the creation of the individual collage pieces, then I rely on experimentation and instinct when I start to combine things together. I intentionally make room for happy accidents, which sounds strange, but that is the place where the good stuff happens.
In your artist statement you talk a lot about how your surroundings and identity influence your work. Can you talk about some of the biggest influences in your life?
I think moving around and traveling has had such an impact on my work and my life. I have experienced small towns, big cities, and some in-between, and finding who I am in those places has challenged me to questions what is important to me: what to keep, and what to let go. For me, embracing the uncomfortable has offered me the opportunity to try new things, meet new people, sometimes fail, but learn more about myself along the way. I can see the fluidity in which I change from place to place, recognizing changes in career, age, and priorities. But each location also offers me the opportunity to try something new. This playfulness allows me to find new parts of myself and has become a very important part of my process. I work hard to keep embracing the uncomfortable in my practice; it is where I am the most vulnerable and honest.
What advice would you give to artists looking to find their voice and technique? How did it happen for you?
That is a big question! I think my suggestion would be to experiment and do what keeps you engaged. It took me a lot of work, writing, reflecting, and bad art to really start to feel solid about what I was doing. I thought for a long time that once I “figured it out” then I would be stuck in it, which scared me a little. For me, I have found a way of working that lets me move, experiment, twist and turn, while still staying true to what is important to me. Once I got to that point, I felt so much better because at the end of the day, if you are not interested in what you are doing, why would anyone else be? My way of working constantly gives me to new problems to solve, and I enjoy figuring them out.
You work in multiple different mediums, is there a medium you are most drawn to? Why?
Printmaking plays a large role in my work by allowing me to create multiple versions of the same image. I enjoy the spontaneity that arises through the print process. I can change colors, use painterly approaches and embrace the unexpected results that will later often get cut up, and mix and match with other images and materials. Outside of the process of printmaking, I enjoy working with materials that have a physicality to them and they often include some sort of building materials such as wood, house paint, or enamel, mixed with delicate materials, such as paper, gold leaf, wax, etc. The combination of these materials can feel solid and temporary at the same time. It is important to me that my work feels as if it is in motion, possibly coming together, or falling apart, and my choice of materials help to reinforce this concept.
Because you use many different mediums, your series are all pretty unique. Is there one body of work that you are the most fond of? Why?
This is a complicated question. Although some series may look unique, they are very closely related. Some are a response to a particular time or location, while an ongoing series can show the growth within a particular idea. I can appreciate both ways of working; I do feel I need to have some more spontaneous work along with the controlled because they reinforce each other. An example of this would be In-between series, which was made during the time I began the Focus series. Although this work does not look too similar, In-between allowed me to explore shape and space in a way that can be seen in the Focus series. There are also some repeated patterns between the two.