Lisa Perez is a sculptural painter who uses materials like canvas, wood, and paper to give structural integrity to media. By applying dimensionality to her media, she engages the viewer in an expansive experience by directly commanding perceptual attention and spatial concerns. The works may be minimal in media, but the density of information is activated by the way light and color become form and substance.
Perez currently works in a studio space in Rhode Island. She received a BFA and BA from University of Colorado, Boulder, and Rutgers College, Rutgers University and received an MFA from University of California Berkeley. Her work has been exhibited nationally in many solo and group exhibitions, exploring materials through installation, painting, and sculpture in all opportunities.
When were you introduced to art?
My childhood was pretty idyllic in that the landscape around me was focused on nature and creativity was a thread through how we learned to explore the spaces around us both inside and outside the home. My parents were both creative and yet never referred to themselves as artists, and in a rural middle class environment I didn’t have a daily immersion in the larger art world. When we visited the museums in NYC it was always a mind blowing feast. I still have that extreme dichotomy and desire of loving the extremes of urban vs. wild environments.
I recently embarked on the NYC museum crawl myself and was amazed by the collections. They were all truly inspiring to see in conversation with each other. Do you have one specific memory from visiting the museums in NYC that stands out to you the most? How has this memory played a role in your artistic endeavors, if at all?
It’s interesting to delve into those formative memories of inspiration. The more I’ve been pondering this question the more I realize that there is an amalgamation of those memories, maybe a visual memory collage, that I’d use to describe such memory. I think seeing the vividness of modern works like Pollock amidst the graphic patterns of ancient textiles and bronze age pottery, swirled with the intimacy of a Vermeer – then there is the Egyptian wing at the Met and the impactful memories of the Museum of Natural History’s dioramas. It’s this collision with the awe inspiring NYC architecture which was a feast of past, present and proportion. I see a lot of my interest in extremes again in this way of framing it, from micro to macro moments and elastic perspective.
What attracts you to your media?
For me exploration of materials is a key dimension of the work – the parameters of what is possible and impossible, the challenges and surprises that arise are integral to a synthesis with the conceptual and intellectual side of the creative processes. I love the meeting of materials. With the current explorations of wood and canvas through ‘structural painting’, I find immense challenges and rewards in the dimensional malleability, movement and edges in resulting forms. I like collaborating with my materials and finding the boundaries of what I can do and what the formal outcomes allow with my material choices. It’s play – not really work and remembering that is always a challenge, a key to not overworking something.
I find immense challenges and rewards in the dimensional malleability
What kind of research do you conduct before starting your creative process?
Where ideas come from is a constant source of mystery and a propelling force. I think much comes indirectly from direct sources, which counters an easy way of distilling that answer! I am drawn to the opposing sides of our understanding of things and how the more we seem to know about how and why we are here, the more depth and mystery expands. Thinking about scale and perspective, space and time and our ability or inability to stay focused, speed and stillness, and the desire to make something of simple materials that attempts to articulate some of this is really boundless.
Your works are very minimal, yet still hold a vast amount of structural information. Can you explain the importance of this relationship between minimalism and information and how you are able to achieve it in your work?
I often resist the term minimal as I see the works as very complex and layered, but I do understand that the restrained palette of either color or materials can evoke this interpretation. It is here that I think the actual viewing of the work in person expands the perception of what in mere photo documentation comes off as ‘minimal’ whereas with space, light and real time perception counters that. The density of information is in the way that light and color become form and substance in the space between and around the piece, its interaction with the architecture, the wall and how you move around it. I love when something we see unfolds slowly, shifts our expectation of how we understand it, and really allows for a rich experiential definition of perception. The complexity of material edges, and subtle surfaces are also intended to amplify on close inspection, over time. It’s definitely not a “loud” approach, but nor is it “quiet.”
The density of information is in the way that light and color become form and substance in the space between and around the piece, its interaction with the architecture, the wall and how you move around it.
The dimensionality of your work is unique to viewer experience. What is the role of the viewer in your work?
This is a great question and really taps into some of the biggest challenges for me in documentation and presentation of work when it cannot be experienced directly by the viewer. The works ideally present an opportunity for expansive experience by directly engaging perceptual attention, spatial concerns, speed, etc…When they have to be viewed as merely image, some of this becomes “flattened” both literally by the nature of perspective in a single photographic, static image as well as conceptually by the act of solidifying something in a ‘staged’ manner by stopping time and collapsing the space it is viewed from and within.
Would you say then that your work really only exists in communication with viewers when it is displayed in an exhibitionist setting?
To expand on the last answer, I have been trying to better articulate the dimension of “shared time,” or the movement and spatial expansion that occurs in real-time with the materialization of time spent in making and viewer engagement. The challenges of participation or experience, context and site are always important to me. I’ve done work that is on the one extreme site specific but also have been exploring the best ways to allow the ideas in the work to resonate as pure images or isolated outside of the gallery context. I think there are many possibilities here, but I do place emphasis lately on work that seems best suited to viewer engagement in isolation within an architectural space.
How do you know if your work is successful?
That is an illusive thing. Sometimes a work seems perfectly resolved in and of itself, but sometimes that only happens in relation to another work that either preceded it or that was finished at the same time. I work on many things at once, various series in different materials and this bouncing from one piece to another helps to not put too much weight on one work. Success is not always measured the same way either, and sometimes a work has to be put away for a while to get perspective on it.
The magic formula for how I perceive my own work as successful is also defined by the dialogue I have with other artists or viewers about it. This evolution in thinking about it outside of the studio context is of course critical to a wider perspective, but should never become oppressive to the creative process.
What is the greatest challenge you face in your work?
One challenge that I always love embracing is the context of where a body of work will be exhibited and how the site impacts and drives the layout. Often it is an improvisation in curatorial placement, where scale and light are always concerns. The pieces have a very particular way of existing best in relation to one another, more holistically versus in isolation from one another. That can be a strength but only when the space itself allows the perfect choreographing of elements.
Last modified: November 8, 2015