Written by Desiree Cormier
Featuring Erika Lizée
Erika Lizée is a talented, thought-provoking, California artist who is fascinated with the “ever-shifting and nebulous boundary between what is known and unknown.” Throughout her work, from concept and creative approach to the finished piece, she is continuously exploring the ideas of both. She deals with our limited human understanding of life and how that is constantly shifting and changing and also dives into the human emotion that comes along with it all; it is very powerful stuff!
Lizée, is not only an exhibiting installation artist, drawer and painter, she is also an art professor, director and Digital, Media and Visual Arts Department Chair at Moorpark College. With a current resume and schedule as hefty as that, it was wonderful that she was able to make the time to talk to us here at We Choose Art about her two current exhibits: Transfiguration and Seed of Life. Here’s how that conversation went:
We Choose Art: Hi Erika! Congrats again on the upcoming exhibit and thanks for doing this interview with me. I’ve seen that you’ve been busy installing and getting ready for the opening reception of “Shift and Fade” at BLAM so I’ll just dive right in and get started. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the website already, but WeChooseArt is a collaborative community of thought and expression, where each individual can share their creative input of why artists do what they do, and the one question we always ask is: why do you choose art? Now we normally end the write-ups with that question, but I wanted to give it to you up front because it takes time to really delve into that answer; it is definitely a deeper question than at first glance. We often get “well art chose me…” and while that may be true, there is always something more than that…
So now that you have time to think about that, let’s talk about your new installation Transfiguration, at the Tom Bradley International Terminal within the Los Angeles International Airport. In this work I see almost a continuation or a culmination of the “…and yet things continue to unfold” series. Is that assumption cold? Warm? I could be way off, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I see the wonderful flower motif recurring from that series, the similar color pallets and intricacies, combining with the titles, it gives me, as the viewer, the feeling that the thing(s) that had been “unfolding,” per say, is now going through the actual “transfiguration”?
Erika Lizée: Yes! The “…and yet, things continue to unfold” project was started back in 2013 and I used the initial studio installation images to apply to the Los Angeles World Airports art program. Following my acceptance into the program, I began working away, building and building more of the series, as I learned I would be displaying in a 43’ case in the International Terminal. During this time, I began showing sections of the installation (in my mind they were always parts of a continuum that would eventually be shown at LAX as a whole). However, once I was able to make a site visit to the display case and see it in person, I decided that I would make an entirely new piece that would be better suited for the case; hence the birth of “Transfiguration”. Conceptually the work had evolved over the past 3 years as well, as you mention in your question. One of the main themes that I deal with in my work is the process of transformation. I am considering the transformation of what is unknown to known, intangible to tangible, and contemplating the existential questions of our relationship to both the invisible and visible realms. In the installations I use walls as physical and metaphorical barriers or thresholds. What lies beyond the surface of the wall represents the unknown, intangible, invisible and otherworldly, and then visually we see these elements emerge from this space and transform into something tangible within the physical space of the viewer. I like the use of trompe l’oeil and the play of light and shadow in my work as it relates to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It makes viewers question what is real and what is illusion and this metaphor intrigues me on a multitude of levels.
We Choose Art: How long will it be showing?
Lizée: This installation will be up through February 2017.
We Choose Art: I also want to talk about your upcoming installation Seed of Life at the BLAM – Los Angeles Shift and Fade show. What was the creative/thought process behind this installation? What is the message being portrayed in this particular piece/show. Is there anything specifically that you would want your audience to know about this work/show?
Lizée: I created this work specifically for the Shift and Fade show with BLAM – Los Angeles, and wanted to focus more on the development of the internal elements this time around. The Seed of Life is a geometric design created through the repetition of seven overlapping circles. If the pattern is continued up to nineteen circles, the design grows to become the ancient symbol, The Flower of Life. This image has been used throughout time as a symbol of existence, creation and fertility. The inclusion of this sacred geometry in my work has become a way to connect with humanity throughout time, through the universal language of geometry. These images speak to the deep-rooted questions we have faced throughout time in relation to the existence of the universe and our role in in.
We Choose Art: I’ve also learned that you deal a lot with the ideas of known vs. unknown and I was really intrigued with your thoughts on “conflicting feelings of wonder and uncertainty.” That just seems to strike human nature/emotion on the nose. Excitement, fear, uncertainty in life…in anything. It’s something everyone experiences, on different levels and for a myriad of different reasons. It’s so encompassing of a feeling and ties us all together. Can you talk more about that and how that affects your creative process and work, and how those feelings are portrayed/represented through your work?
Lizée: The combination of wonder and uncertainty seems to be rooted in my worldview and a level of awareness that I seek to maintain in my life. I am continuously awed by the world around me, and the unfathomable complexities of life and our perceptions of what is going on around us, as well as our understanding of how we as a people arrived in this moment. It is just mind blowing. The uncertainty comes in, in that so many of the answers we seek are unknowable. We want to have a greater understanding of and control over our circumstances, yet this is often an unattainable goal. Scientific discovery continues to give us answers, and many people turn to faith as a source of comfort. Over the years I have come to a place of accepting the discomfort of not knowing.
In my artwork, these ideas are represented in that I make work that creates a sense of wonder in the viewer, or elicits the question “What is that?” The work is beautiful and enticing, yet the viewer might not totally understand or even trust what they are looking at. I like artwork that makes the viewer think and question. I often describe my imagery as “strange yet familiar”. I am often abstracting from nature and so it reminds people of things, without being fully representational or real, which parallels much of the natural world. There is the notion that as our knowledge of the natural world expands, elements that were once inconceivable or exotic are now commonplace.
Your initial question asked me why I choose art.
Making art for me is a way of investigating ideas, expressing feelings, exploring process, honing technical skills and connecting with people both in and outside of the art world. I seek to make work that pushes me technically, while using that technique in concert with imagination and possibility to provide viewers with a unique and engaging experience. I find the installation work to be particularly rewarding in that you are creating something that the viewer can become a part of. The work is more fully realized with the participation of the viewers, through their thoughts and perceptions of the work.
Erika Lizée’s newest piece “Seed of Life” will be on view October 8th – October 30th at BLAM Los Angeles located at 1950 S Santa Fe Ave #207, Los Angeles, California 90021 and if you happen to be travelling internationally out of LAX between now and February make sure to see “Transfiguration” in the Tom Bradley International Terminal!
For more information about Erika Lizée please visit her website at ErikaLizee.com
Installation at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, LAX
Acrylic on Duralar
7′ x 43′ x 5′