Monday, April 27, 2009

Interview With Artist Robert Lazuka Part 3

This is the third and final installment of Questions and Answers with artist Robert Lazuka. His show of digital prints, entitled Best of Show,
opens May 1st at the Marcia Evans Gallery in Columbus Ohio.

Question: Do you ever work in any medium or process other than printmaking?

Bob: I engage in so many different kinds of processes, but they could all be considered a kind of printmaking. I almost always use drawing, painting and collage techniques, but I like the coherent, seamless quality that I can achieve by applying those techniques within the framework of a print.

In the early 1990's I was addressing some rather serious issues in my work. In the first few prints, which I made as lithographs and photo-etchings, the message came off too heavily and sent the wrong message. I changed the medium to woodcuts that were multi-layered and heavily embossed to mimic the look of traditional Appalachian quilts, creating a very rich surface with a "Folksy" style. This added just the right mix of frankness and humor. A current equivalent to this is the news as presented by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show where he exposes the inside of the news stories but uses humor to soften the blow. It keeps him from sounding preachy.

Later, I worked with photographs that I flattened and simplified to reflect a mass-produced, commercial quality, and printed them as silk screens and photo-etchings.

As a rule, the idea drives the medium. As I mentioned earlier, my current body of work only makes sense to me if it retains a photographic quality. On the other hand, if I printed them as "straight photographs," they would not have the warmth they possess by printing them on soft, 100% cotton printmaking papers (Rives Lightweight or Rives BFK).

Question: What artists have influenced you, and how?

Bob: Tons of artists have affected me: different ones for different bodies of work. Mark Rothko certainly influenced "Personal Spaces," which rely on the viewer to lose themselves while gazing into the space.

Giorgio de Chirico and Rene' Magritte were big influences in my youth. I didn't really focus on them when I started getting "serious" with my studies, but lately, I find that I still love their sense of the extraordinary found in the ordinary. I think my recent "Spirits" series conveys a similar kind of unusual event frozen in time.

Dan Britton, my former professor from Arizona State University, has been a mentor and a dear friend for many years. He taught me about the integrity of the mark, and drove home the notion that we as artists are competing with the greats of the past and present, like Michelangelo, John Singer Sargent, Chuck Close, James Turrell, Etc.

Question: How do you keep yourself motivated to work in the studio?

Bob: Like many artists, I get very motivated when I have an exhibition scheduled. I dont like to show the same work for very long, so I always try to create some new pieces for each new show.

Aside from that practical motivation, I find that my image files beckon to me. I frequently "thumb through them," and get excited to try my hand at making something come alive.

Question: What impact does your position as a teacher, and the on going interaction with young artists, have on your work?

Bob: In order to carry any credence in the eyes of my students, I must continue to grow, and to create artworks that speak to current sensibilities. I am not all that interested in knowing who all the "hot" artists are at any given point in time, but I do read about new ideas that find their way into the conversation among artists, and always question my own ideas and methods of presenting them as images and objects. I have never settled on a particular method of working or a personal style for my artworks. Every few years I get an idea for a new body of work, and I grapple with finding just the right medium and method for expressing that idea.

Question: I know that in addition to being an artist you are also a musician. In what way, if any, does this talent influence your work?

Bob: In my twenties, I played guitar and sang in various bands. I started out in Rock, then Blues, and dabbled a bit in jazz. I was most interested in improvisational music, but always liked to keep it accessible to the audience. In a way, I approach art making in a similar fashion. I work on an idea or theme and do it over and over, exploring variations on that theme. I did a series of pieces in my thirties that were specifically intended as visual jazz improvisations. The work I do now is not consciously intended as such, but still retains some elements of that idea.

Question: Have you used the Internet to promote yourself and your work? If so, tell us how.

Bob: I have a facebook page, and a page on INKTERACTION, which is a printmaker's website where people can find images of my work, my home/studio, and my kids, but I have been remiss in promoting myself actively through the Internet. This one reason I was so excited to participate in your blog, Terry! It's something that I just haven't had time to put more into, largely because I have so many things going on. I do a lot of work with the College Board which requires travel, I have two children and I have a ten year long-distance relationship.

One of the classes that I teach is a digital imaging class. I think after working on that class for hours on end, I am less inclined to do the digital work I need to do to create a working website. Little by little, my images and information are coming together, so I hope to put something together soon.

My sincere thanks to Bob for the opportunity to work with him on this series of postings. My best wishes to you Bob for your show and future ventures.

Friday I will have a new Textile Construction to share. Hope to see you then. Terry

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