Featured Artist Interview – Kerith Lisi

Artist Kerith LisiKerith Lisi
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Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter, etc.
I’m drawn to everyday materials (vintage books, ephemera, found objects, etc.) that would usually go unnoticed, but upon closer inspection reveal a beauty created through everyday wear and tear. Working with discarded materials invites exploration of ideas universal to the human experience: nostalgia, second chances, the beauty of imperfection. For me, the search for source materials that speak to a history is as enjoyable as the end product itself.

I spent fourteen years as a residential organizer and in the process of seeing just how much “stuff” there is in the world, it inspired me to work more with items that can be repurposed.  Books and ephemera are so rich in detail and history, the material itself informs the piece and the direction it takes. Early on, I worked mostly with paper creating small-scale collage pieces. Over time, I began adding bits and pieces of books which brought me to where I am today, working mostly with hardcover books. My work seems to be getting more abstract and more colorful and growing bigger in scale. I just love the process of puzzling pieces together.

This January/February 2019, I am really excited to be showing new, larger pieces along with two other Bay Area artists (Brian Singer and Hadley Williams) at “Of Method and Material” at Slate Contemporary in Oakland.

Artist Kerith Lisi

What are your biggest challenges in creating art?
My biggest challenge is that there never seems to be enough time. But perhaps that is a sign that I am enjoying what I’m doing. I have to set an alarm when I am in the studio so I am not late to meet my children from school. Another challenge would be quieting the highly critical voice(s) in my head that chime in constantly. I try and think of the Thomas Edison quote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Not that I am tackling inventions, but it is a good reminder that navigating repeated attempts is all part of the process. Very few pieces I make end up where I thought they would when I start. Life outside the studio is so planned and scheduled that it is actually a really nice balance to lean more on intuition and let go of expectations. It’s as close to meditation as I can get as I just watch the conversation that is taking place between the materials on the table.

Artist Kerith Lisi

What is a day of working like in your studio/creative space?  Do you have any rituals that help you get motivated or in “the zone”?
My day in the studio is broken up between the time I have when my kids are in school and then some days at night, I go in after dinner after my husband is home from work. After the morning hustle getting the kids out the door, I walk the dog which clears my head as I notice the details, colors and patterns of everything around me.  It’s a bit like walking with a toddler in that I can only go so fast and so far, so it gets me out of the mode of “hurrying.”

My studio is just ten minutes from my house and I usually settle in quickly. When I leave the studio, I always take photos on my phone of the work in progress.  It helps me to look at it again at night after some time has passed and in the sized-down view, I always see things that I want to move around the next day. I make marks on the phone with the pen tool so I know exactly where to jump in the next day. Even when I’m not in the studio, I’m still thinking about what I am working on.

Artist Kerith Lisi

When you are in need of inspiration are there particular things you read, listen to, look at or do to help find that idea or fuel your work?
I can honestly say that it has been quite a long time since I have felt short on inspiration. It wasn’t until I entered my 40’s that I seriously got to work in the studio. The gift of aging was that the fear of regretting never pursuing a creative path finally outgrew the fear of putting myself out there, so to speak. In a way, I feel like I’m making up for lost time. I love taking workshops directly from artists and I want to add as many tools and means of expression as I can to my vocabulary. When I’m not making, I’m learning how to do new things.

More often than not, I am motivated to create as a means to clear my mind and there is a lot going on in the world to try and process.

Artist Kerith Lisi

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
This is a difficult question to answer! Something pretty out-of-character might be that I can slalom waterski and even jump the wake, but I may be out of practice now.

What advice would you give others just beginning their creative careers?
Meet other artists. Go to gallery receptions at your local arts venues. Sometimes following a creative path can be very solitary and I think it helps to balance it out with contact with a supportive community. When I was just stepping out in to the world and showing work, I joined a local cooperative gallery and I learned so much, not just from an artist-perspective, but from the standpoint of what goes into running a gallery, the installation of shows, and being able to observe how collectors connect with the work.

Also, it is important to share your story. People will have their reaction to what they are seeing, but I think there is an opportunity for real connection through sharing background information about the work and you as the artist through a statement. Don’t wait for it to be perfect – your statement will change along with your work.

Artist Kerith Lisi

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