I met Lisa almost five years ago in a painting class. We decided, shortly after becoming friends, to take a trip across the ocean. We spent time in Germany and Spain, and ended up in France taking a three-week drawing class through school. We stayed in a very old stone house at the edge of a cliff and had many adventures. Over the course of those months I got to know Lisa and her work...and I'm so grateful that I did. She continues to be an inspiration to me, and of course a dear friend. Photos and interview after the jump:
EC: Where did you grow up, and why are you in Chicago?
LC: I was born and raised in Osaka, Japan..and I lived there for 18 years. Then I came to Chicago to go to SAIC. Before I came, I didn’t know anything about Chicago or the school... basically I made my decision because I looked on the website and there were nice pictures (hah!).
EC: Had you been to America before that?
LC: I visited a few times..my Dad is American, so we have some family here..but I never lived here.
EC: So you knew what you were getting yourself into, somewhat.
LC: Not really.
The last time I was in America before then, I was a little kid, and my memories of America were like..big parking lots..biiiig grocery stores. So....
EC: What about Japan, or growing up in Japan makes its way into your work? Subject matter, or sensibilities..anything?
LC: That’s a good question. I feel like Japanese culture, or Japanese art and design..well, first of all, Japanese culture is all about appearance in a way. Not in a superficial way, but they are very much about packaging and about the way things look. Their sense of art is ..I dont know how to say it. It’s not like pop art, but it’s very on-the-surface ..it's not that it's not deep, but they really pay attention to aesthetics. I grew up reading Japanese graphic novels, so that defintitely affects my work.
I never really made abstract work...my work always has to have some kind of figurative element to it..I didn't grow up around abstract work in Japan. Almost every design in Japan is ...they use characters for everything. They always create some type of figure ..
EC: Like an avatar for this certain thing.
|"Snakes/What've we done/Blood that can't be washed off"|
|"I thought it was convoluted but you disagreed (it was all beautiful in the end)"|
LC: Yeah. To communicate.
EC: Well, I have seen work of yours that isn’t figurative..but it’s almost always, or is always, based in nature. Leaves, flowers, birds...etc. Other times, you’ll make the figure very small, being sort of swallowed by nature. They remind me of oriental landscape paintings. They're all about the insignificant human within the vast beautiful wilderness.
LC: I dont think I'm consciously drawing from that, but I can definitely see the connection.
EC: Even just conceptually..
LC: I think it’s really important to me, in my life...the idea of the inner and the outer being connected. The outside world is a manifestation of what’s going on in the inner world, and vice versa. Or like, always trying to find some kind of unity between the two poles. So that might be expressing itself.
EC: So, interconnectedness.
LC: Mmhmm. For sure. I’m always trying to find balance... emotionally, physically, relationally, and I think because that's what I’m going through, I see it a lot in the world around me. In nature, in animals, even trying to survive and live..so maybe I put some of that in my work as a theme.
Not like as a gory survival thing, but as a..a natural flow. Trying to find balance.
EC: How does color play it’s part?
LC: I have a weird relationship with color because sometimes I’ll make paintings with color- and certain people will say “Oh my gosh, make more work with color!” and other people will be like, “No, just do drawings.” I feel like I go through phases of needing to use color.. like when color really speaks to me, and phases when I just need black and white..when just drawing is..more than color for me.
|"Alien in the Dark"|
|"Cross section of my Head"|
EC: Would you say that art-making is primarily therapeutic for you?
LC: i think.....so...
Therapeutic has such a strong connotation..the word...it’s more like ..expressing yourself through language is very important..communication. For me, art is that. It’s me speaking in a very specific visual language for a part of me that can only express itself in that way.
EC: I’m thinking about our time in France together...I remember there, you were having a pretty hard time making work...
LC: Yeah, because making art is a really personal thing. When I’m just drawing in my sketchbook, that’s when I feel like I make my best work. I’m making it only for myself. If I put out a piece of paper and try to make something, if I’m already even a little bit conscious of the fact that someone else might see it, I’m not able to make art. That’s why the France thing was so hard, because we had to share our sketchbooks with everyone all of the time.
It didn’t feel like I was making art anymore. It felt like i was making stuff for other people.
EC: Was there any point in time over there when you felt like you could just relax and make something, whether or not people were going to see?
LC: I think I had to get to a point where I was making art that wasn’t lying to myself..it was still true for me, but I could show people. But it wasnt the deepest darkest glimpse into my soul..that just wasn’t possible there.
I think that's okay, there are times to work like that..
EC: Well, yeah, basically your whole time in school was like that..we were critiqued constantly..always sharing with others.
LC: Right. And I mean, even things I’ve put up on my blog..I’ve had friends that have been like, “Woah, that was a little creepy.” Some people don’t expect that sort of thing to come out of me, or I guess people have different levels of what to them is acceptable.
EC: How do you react to comments like that?
LC: I get self conscious!
I think my blog..I mean, I know it’s online and everyone can see it, but i wanted a place where I could catalog all my work. Not being in art school anymore, it was really important for me to still be able to share it with someone. At the same time , I’m showing really private and vulnerable parts of myself on the internet..which is kind of what our generation is all about doing. It’s just a learning process.
I think that..and we heard this so much in art school..but as private and as personal as your art might be, we still need an audience. If you think about it in terms of communication.. I need to say these things to somebody. Someone needs to hear it and to receive it.
EC: Hmm..do I have any more questions?
LC: You don’t have to put this into the interview, but the thing I feel like saying is almost like..an apology. I feel bad that I don’t make more art.
EC: C’mon, you can’t say that!
LC: Haha! I know, you can’t put that in the interview..but honestly, that’s what I would say.
Anyway, this never happened.
LC: Um, because I know that it’s something I have to do. You know those things you know you have to do? For some poeple it’s being a good wife..or whatever..For me, I know I have to be making art , but I haven't been doing it as much lately.
So...it makes me feel bad.
EC: I know what you mean. I feel the same way lately. It’s a sensible time for me to be getting back to work on things..I just finished up with a few projects and have had some time, but I haven’t felt ready yet.
LC: Right. And I think sometimes you have to have balance between seasons of productivity, and seasons of recovering..or just being chill. I think that’s normal. Gauging where you are in that, and being at peace with it ..and just trusting the process..
EC: Yeah, because you have to be careful that you’re not just being lazy.
LC: I remember an art teacher told me once..I said to him, “I’m not making art right now” and he said “How do you feel about it?” I said “Not good.” and he said, “Then you’ll be okay.” It’s if you don’t care...then there’s a problem.
How’s your tea, by the way?
EC: It’s really good. I want to buy some of this.
LC: Yeah, it’s good stuff.
EC: There’s a tea I’m really into right now called Egyptian Licorice. It has anise, cinnamon bark, cloves and all sorts of nice spices in it.
LC: Oh my gosh! Sounds so good.
EC: One final question. a lot of your work features two subjects..
I often read it as trying to talk about relationships, or telepathic communication..or understanding one another, or one-ness...
I think that’s true. I think every relationship is important, but it always comes down to one soul connecting to another soul. Something happens there, and it’s unique and different every time. But ..lemme think...there’s beauty in that simplicity, and it’s very big, but simple at the same time. That’s often what I’m trying to create or explain.
|"Some sort of Seductress/Femme Fatale/Watch out caesar!"|
|"I don't think you can pass through here/oh I meant no harm "|
Check out Lisa's Blog: Playing in the Park