Pierogi: Can you discuss your relationship with text in drawing, and where the text originates from? Particularly in “All this and more,” and “Same Old Same Old.”
Lisa Iglesias: Much of the work I do originates from my love of language – a phrasing, narrative, etymology or translation – that peaks my curiosity and most often leads to an image or process. Text, the written word, is of course knotted up with this conversation and text lives in the realm of drawing. The act of drawing is the tracing out of thought, text as a drawn image of the hand and a spark for imagery in the mind. Lists, diagrams, notations, and passages from books often make up most of my sketchbook habit and literature is often a starting point for projects. I regularly turn to grammatical structures and semantic relationships when making decisions in the studio.
The text drawings like “All this and more,” and “Same Old Same Old” have a lot to do with language’s ability to carry multiple meanings and the material application of graphite around the words. I see this application as a way to digest the incomprehensible. Making text legible through building up layers of graphite or ink that carve out a word or set of words opens space for thought and in these specific examples, is one small way that I can begin to physically and emotionally process oppressive events in the world.
P: You also work with materials vastly different than paper, such as concrete and fabric. Does each material depict a specific language to you, or portray a specific body of work?
L: I love paper and graphite – these tools are so elemental, versatile, democratic, and foundational. I’m attracted to the ways other materials speak in the conversation of drawing, the ways in which concrete and fabric, for example, can be drawn with/on/from as well, and the specific metaphorical connections and gestures they engage. My Dominican father spent much of his youth on a concrete plant campus in Santo Domingo – he told me more than once that cement is in my veins. My Norwegian mother and family are very involved with fibers, including knitting, weaving, and sewing. These processes are embedded in daily life. I’m increasingly interested in creating a sort of pinball effect between objects and materials, spinning connections between disparate materials for the viewer, proposing unlikely associations or relationships between objects. Distinctions between materials and processes begin to melt, objects refuse to be any one thing. I don’t have control or fluency over many of the materials I’m beginning to use with more frequency, because of my unfamiliarity with them – and I like the sensation of the unexpected that results.
P: There seems to be an aspect of intimacy in your work. If so, can you talk about that?
L: I think the work certainly speaks to intimate details about my background. This was particularly true when I was drawing images of animals and continues now in the patterns and materials I use. Lately, I’ve been privileging the spatial, formal, and gestural relationships between objects – on the part of the viewer, a closeness of observation of the objects reveals associations and relationships that may not be obvious with a fast reading of an individual work. In this way, the works’ meanings take form through tracing relationships with each other in a space, an intimate experience.
P: Your installation, “A Once & Future,” portrays a black and white mound atop three tripods, connected to a monitor displaying a looped video. Can you talk about this piece?
L: The experience of giving birth in 2012 has had a really profound effect on my practice – particularly regarding the futility of control and the positivity of experimentation. That year, I began to grow salt crystals on objects, dye paper, and cast concrete slabs and such. I was really excited about state change and processes that would work on their own. They felt pleasurable and alchemical. I was just beginning to work with geological motifs and liked the idea of making a three-dimensional drawing. I realized that I’d never enacted the science experiment so common with young children – making a model volcano. In “A Once & Future” I made the mountainous forms by casting paper over three wooden tripod supports and the object drew itself via graphite powder moving through a baking soda and vinegar reaction. The looped video consists of edited close-ups of the ‘drawing eruptions.’
P: In addition to your own practice, you collaborate with your sister Janelle. When did you begin collaborating?
L: In 2005, while in grad school, Janelle and I began to send drawings back and forth through the mail. We wanted to make things outside of critique and we were curious to reveal the similarities and polarities between our studios. We would receive a packet of drawings without instruction, this stack of drawings flew back and forth carrying traces of our collective gestures, masking tape, machine sewing lines, paints and drawn images. This project started our collaboration, and we continue these drawings today.
P: How does the process of collaboration develop? Do you begin with a specific result in mind, is it entirely organic, is there a defined beginning and end or is it always in flux?
L: Our collaboration is a really flexible process. It stems from our interest in the challenges and benefits of working together and so there’s space for a lot of freedom to experiment between us. The main through line between our efforts is the act of collaboration itself and the blurriness involved. At this point, we’re now collaborating under two different auspices – Las Hermanas Iglesias and Lisa & Janelle Iglesias. Many times, an opportunity to work together with a specific community or space will spark the project. When we worked with Abrons Art Center and the Good Companions Senior Center, Las Hermanas helped throw a big party at the end of collective sculpture workshops. For our last Lisa & Janelle solo project, at 1708 Gallery (Richmond, VA), we used the space as an opportunity to explore shared material and process curiosities.
P: Has your birthplace or your ancestry had any effect on your practice?
L: Growing up in Queens, New York and being Dominican-Norwegian (or, as I sometimes say, Norwinican) directly shape my practice in large and small ways.
P: Is there anything you would like to add?
L: I’m in Norway for the summer at the farm where my mother grew up and I’m trying to pick up a little Norsk, knitting, and weaving knowledge from my family. This week, my Tante Møyfrid taught me to make my first weaving, using tools and materials that my Bestemor had used. I’m hoping to incorporate more fibers into my next experiments. You can see a walk-through video of my last show here and I have a large drawing at the Appleton Museum’s Drawing Biennial this summer. Janelle and I are working on some new collaborative projects that involve our mom, Bodhild, and my son, Bowie that will take shape this year.