21 Jul Q&A SUZANNE ADELMAN
What or who inspired you to become an artist?
In someway it always felt like an option although I wasn’t conscious of its possibility as a career. I grew up in Upstate New York, which at that time felt worlds away from NYC, a place I had never visited with my parents. However I was exposed to copies and reproductions of art. My mother regularly brought home artist monographs from the library, and I grew up with reproductions of art on the walls at home, Cezanne’s Mont Sainte Victoire, copies of Chagall, Winslow Homer, and Van Gogh…so I think I associated being ‘an artist’ with being a wizened old man. I think I also associated art making with craft rather than something academic or intellectual. Although I made art on my own–portraits for people while in high school– it wasn’t until my junior and senior years of college that I took art classes.
How does the city of Los Angeles influence your work?
I think it influences my work a great deal. It has consistently figured in my work as source material and as the context of my experiences in places I that inhabit or regularly go. I don’t use any appropriated imagery, so what is reflected in various guises is my lived context. I think the city has so much complexity, so many layers and odd juxtapositions; it’s a limitless resource.
Much of your work draws attention to the way our brains process visual data and our general perception of the everyday world around us. What sparked your interest in this almost scientific-artistic analysis?
I am a bit of a science buff. During the time I was making paintings I was obsessed with ideas related to the cosmos and natural structures–chaos theory, complex dynamic systems, astrophysics. I think this is all connected to the idea of what we can see– both from our human visual lenses and our cognitive ability– to make sense of the world and process visual information.
What is your artistic process like?
My recent works are triggered by my experiences of different environments: there’s the ideal environment versus the interrupted, yet to be built, complicated, or polluted environment. The source material has always come from me going about my life. In the past my photographic imagery relied on similar subjects but the compositions were multilayered or manipulated. My recent photographs are more straightforward, more documentary.
Do you and Keith ever collaborate on ideas or projects together? You both seem to explore concepts of space and time in your work.
We have collaborated on a couple of occasions and really enjoyed the process. For one show, we combined our approaches to make a site-specific work about a vacant bedroom that was lit by a hanging lamp that looked like a planet. I took photographs of the room while moving like an orbit below the lamp. We then sequenced different views of the space with some scans of Keith’s outer space vehicle prototype drawings. The result was a dreamlike and cinematic looking photograph that spanned the length of the same room it was viewed in.
Tell us about what you’re working on right now…
The photographs on view at the gallery come from two of five different current projects. The photo of the workers, brothers who had immigrated to the US, was selected from hundreds taken while they worked on our fixer house. Since I needed to be around and I did not yet have a dedicated studio space, the rooms in which they worked became my studio. During this time I was able to witness the remarkable working relationship of these brothers, their incredible skills, intelligence, thoughtfulness and humor. I felt a reverence for what they were doing and wanted to capture their symbiotic process as they constructed a new space. I felt an additional connection because my grandfather had been a carpenter and had immigrated to the US with his brothers and they all worked together.
The second photo of the ocean with the oil tankers in the sunset comes from a series of work shot at El Segundo Beach. Also situated here is an oil refinery and a power plant, and LAX is so closeby that planes fly overhead. At the same time, the beach is cheerfully populated by surfers, bathers, bikers, and volleyball nets. I found this to be a very precarious collision of the beautiful and the polluted that is oddly typical of the Los Angeles landscape.