Since we can’t hang out with our Harwood Studio Artists in person right now, we asked them to share a little bit about their art practice and how things have changed for them since the stay-at-home order went into effect. Here is our interview with Lea Anderson. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
How has Covid-19 challenged or changed your art practice?
LA: I just completed the “Guardian” series of drawings (featured here). During my self-imposed COVID-19 isolation, I have become highly aware and appreciative of the micro-world within my body and the powerful organisms that fight for my immunity and survival. They are the infinitesimal yet immensely vital first responders who will ultimately save my life if I become sick.
In “Guardians”, done all in tones of grey, black, and white, I imagine portraits and battle scenes of the hidden yet heroic guardian microbes of the immune system. Complex visual forms appear through material chemistry and a multi-step process incorporating rich organic textures with responsively intricate patterns. The ultra low-relief topographical surfaces allow the illusory nature of drawing to become physically tangible.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
LA: Every day I research things like cellular and microscopic imagery, mathematical patterns, charts and diagrams of all kinds of things, as well as fungi, seeds, botanical illustration, Contemporary and Modern Art, Contemporary/Historical/Cultural Craft, and art media/material processes of all kinds.
My work is a way to process experiences or concepts that deeply affect me. Most often they are personal but relatable, and touch on my curiosity about how biological systemic processes echo the emotional/interpersonal system of human relationships and states of being. When visualized, “Life” in the sense of the patterns and processes in our human lives, the evolution of our personal growth and our interconnections to other humans has many of the same patterns and interconnections as “Life” in the sense of natural/biological/evolutionary processes.
Lea Anderson, Guardians (4), graphite and mixed media on polypropylene, 2020
What is your process when starting a new project or piece?
LA: I stew for a while, turning and twisting my craving to create around and around, with my impulses following short tangents and experimental directions. Then something shifts, and suddenly IT’S HAPPENING- I’m intensely motivated and consumed by what is unfolding. I’m often terrified by the challenge of the unknown direction of my work- my most satisfying experiences have been bodies of work or large installation projects that from the start are unresolved and often even when I’m deep into the project. I rarely allow myself to get too comfortable. I get bored if I know exactly what’s going to happen. I love the triumphant feeling of having a plethora of open-ended questions and then finding (some of) the answers as I work through to the end. It builds a lot of confidence and trust in myself to give things a try; it’s a wild ride for sure.
Do you have another job in addition to making art? How does it inform your art practice?
LA: I am an art educator. I am proud to be Full-Time faculty in the CNM Art Department, (which, by the way, is an amazingly organized, rigorous, fully transferable, affordable, and underestimated college art program). I’ve also taught for Harwood consistently since 2005- I’ve created dozens of experimental mixed-media workshops and classes for Harwood. Over 10 years ago I created “ArtFix: Independent Study for Artists” (also offered through Harwood) which supports artists at all levels of their creative progress, which is ongoing at 3 sessions a year. I also teach for other local arts organizations, NMAL, Oasis Albuquerque, and more.
I often see my teaching practice as more of a research experience. While I might have proficiency or even mastery in some techniques, I try to create projects that have unknown factors for me as well as the participants- so in the classroom, each artist’s variation on the prompts or materials gives all of us new directions to consider. It’s SO inspiring to me to share artistic growth with my students and fellow artists. We have a great time! Tons of ideas for new and unusual workshops and projects are constantly bubbling to the surface.
Lea Anderson, Guardians (8), graphite and mixed media on polypropylene, 2020
What memorable response(s) have you had to your work?
LA: Over the last few years I’ve been notified about the creation of over 50 projects (using my work as inspiration) by K-12 students. They’ve happened locally in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Carlsbad, as well as all over the United States, and even Internationally in Greece, England, Africa, Bangladesh, and more! You can find some of these on Pinterest. These usually consist of collaborative installations based on my work, sometimes with hundreds of kids, and they are so beautiful and unique. It just takes my breath away. My ideas are spreading and taking root and literally growing all over the world and have a life of their own! As a result I feel like my art and what I do has meaning and touches and inspires people far beyond my own experience. And for young people to feel connected and inspired by my art is the ultimate compliment. This human factor means so much more to me than money or art-world recognition.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
LA: Blown glass. I’ve done some work with fused glass- I’d love to explore that medium more, especially in the form of my dream project of an installation in a huge space with thousands of pieces! I’d also like to experiment more with laser-cutting on glass, plexiglass, wood, metal, paper, and more.
Lea Anderson, Guardians (5), graphite and mixed media on polypropylene, 2020
What excites and / or delights you in your art practice right now?
LA: The challenge, as always, of processing what is happening in my life and in the world, and trying new material combinations and techniques. I’m starting a new modular installation piece and a huge 60”x80” drawing. This is giving me serious butterflies! As my students have heard me say, “Art is Hard” and “Art is like Extreme Sports” because of the blood/sweat/tears, risk of failure, time/money investment, personal sacrifice, and more, but is an incredible, never-ending adventure. It can be as intense as sky diving or leaping over an unexplored rocky ledge on a mountain bike- dangerous, beautiful, exhilarating! Art makes us stronger and more open to all life has to offer.
Lea Anderson, Guardians (9), graphite and mixed media on polypropylene, 2020
About Lea Anderson:
Lea Anderson, a San Diego native, has lived and worked in the New Mexico art community since 2003 and has discovered much during her adventures in the dramatic, colorful, and wild desert environment. Fluent in both two-and three-dimensional visual languages, she creates living, philosophical worlds that echo the formal variations seen in natural systems. These themes are explored through individual works, full-scale ambitious mixed media installations, and solo exhibitions using a wide variety of both digital and traditional media. She has exhibited throughout New Mexico and the United States, as well as internationally in Bangkok, Thailand in 2010. In 2013, Anderson was the Guest Curator for the exhibition Flatlanders and Surface Dwellers at 516 ARTS in Albuquerque. She recently created MERIDIAE, a monumental installation piece for the Atrium windows of the Albuquerque Museum as their 2015 Summer Artist-in-Residence. In 2017 Anderson completed artist residencies at Bullseye Glass Resource Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and at the Vermont Studio Center
Lea Anderson Headshot
Lea Anderson, Guardians (1), graphite and mixed media on polypropylene, 2020
Lea Anderson, Guardians (2), graphite and mixed media on polypropylene, 2020
Lea Anderson, Guardians (3), graphite and mixed media on polypropylene, 2020
Lea Anderson, Guardians (7), graphite and mixed media on polypropylene, 2020
Lea Anderson, Guardians (10), graphite and mixed media on polypropylene, 2020