Just the Facts
Primary forming method
Favorite surface treatment
Primary firing method
Most-used piece of equipment
My studio is in Los Angeles, California, about a mile east of downtown and a block south of the infamous Sunset Boulevard. One space (400 square feet) is used for fabrication and the other (500 square feet) is primarily for packing, organizing, and storing my work.
My favorite aspect of the studio is that it is in the middle of the city hustle. It has good lighting with a view of my succulent collection, the inspiration for much of my work. However, the studio plays only a small part in my creative process. Because the majority of my current work is installation-based, it relies on the process of installing the work in a specific space. In other words, I see my work as being created in a studio without walls. If we define a studio as a space where art is created and completed, without a doubt, the galleries and public spaces where my work, such as Urban Rebutia, is installed must also be considered part of my studio. The true creative process for my work takes place in the exhibition space where I reconfigure multiple pieces to best convey my concepts while considering my immediate surroundings. I am never absolutely sure what the work will look like until the day I actually install it and it is only a “work” for the time it lives in a particular space. The rest of the time it’s hibernating in storage. When I open the dozens of totes and see the masses of color, it’s truly an adrenaline rush as they pop into my hands begging to be brought back to life again.While I benefit from the hustle and constant flow of action and people around me, the dirt and grime of living in the city takes a toll on the work. I dislike having to wash soot off my work spaces. Working in the middle of such activity also lends to distractions-neighbors popping by while out for a stroll, car alarms blaring, people pushing grocery carts and rummaging through trash bins and collecting recycling, the constant hum of helicopters, daily gardeners blowing leaves and trash in the street, relentless dog barking (my own included). Sometimes I wish for a small space on a large plot of land in the countryside and wonder how such a tranquil environment would affect my work.
paying dues (and bills)
Day Job: Associate Professor of Art and the ceramics area head at California State University, Northridge.Ceramic training: BFA, Missouri State University; MFA, University of Delaware.Studio time varies. Summers are full-time while during the school year I get about 24 hours a week, if I’m lucky. When I’m prepping for an exhibition, I work around the clock. No matter how prepared I am, I always find just one more thing I need to do to make it my best effort. With Urban Rebutia (above), for example, I am compelled to add 5000 or so pieces every time it is installed in a new space.
I take exercise very seriously. I participate in boot camp twice a week and I train with LA Roadrunners for the marathon every year. I run at least one half marathon or full marathon annually.I’m lucky to have health insurance through my position as a professor at Cal State Northridge. I’ve also been very fortunate not to have any emergencies (knock on wood). I have done some physical therapy in the past to educate myself on posture to help prevent neck and back strain.
I just finished a summer reading binge, which included Jumpa Lahari’s Unaccustomed Earth, Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, and Ori and Rom Branfman’s Sway. I’m currently reading Seven Days in the Art World, by Sarah Thornton. I’m a current affairs/news junkie, too, and highly recommend the periodical, “The Week.”To recharge, I exercise and spend quality time with friends and loved ones. Spending time with other artists always motivates and refuels me as well.
Because my most recent work has been installation-based, it is not necessarily geared toward commercial venues. I spent several years strictly making functional work in the late ’90s and sold 90% of my work at fairs. The stand-alone work that I sell today is sold directly out of my studio or at an exhibition, and is usually bought by collectors.The work that I make, that interests me the most, is the work that has very little commercial application, which can be seen as a disadvantage.My greatest successes online have been connecting with artists locally and nationally. The Internet has a way of making the world a smaller place. It’s been an accessible place to see and share new work. Also, nowadays the best news comes over email-invitations for exhibitions and grant awards, for example. However, old work never really disappears from the Internet. It’s like growing up and not being able to escape your kindergarten nightmare or most embarrassing moment.
most valuable lesson
It is critical to develop routines and set up some structure to my discipline. Structured routines are vital to creative time, work (school) time, and personal time. Without some semblance of routine and structure, one major area of my life inevitably suffers.
At a recent arts organization focus group, I was asked, “As an artist where do you find validation?” All eight artists in attendance answered the same question, each applying his or her personal definition of success. It’s different for everyone.For me, validation has little to do with applying monetary value to the equation of success. I find validation in the way that I have arranged my life to enable me to make work that lives out my creative concepts without limitation. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I’m able to make my work and give back through teaching and mentorship opportunities. My greatest validation is found when I see my students become self-confident artists, meeting their goals while in turn creating their own definitions of success.