"In The Studio With:..." is a weekly feature that takes us into the private creative spaces of emerging artists to discuss their work and career.
Working from her home studio on Long Island, artist Lori Horowitz has crafted a wholly unique practice for her art which thematically attempts to rehumanize the anonymous people we all encounter everyday, giving them intriguing narratives, and formally stretches the bounds of the materials she chooses to work in.
In addition to her studio art, Horowitz has worked as an arts educator, scenic designer for theatre and television, and as a curator & gallerist. Each has brought a new perspective and informed the development of her work and career. Each experience has also more deeply connected her back to the sculpture she makes, and to the viewers who experience them.
Anthony Philip Fine Art: A lot of your work depicts people in very candid moments, but you manage to transform them into almost heroic figures. What is it about the human form that appeals to you and how do you decide that a particular image is worthy of being depicted?
Lori Horowitz: I have always been fascinated by society and the interactions of people. I enjoy reflecting their lives through my work often showing the moments ignored, ordinary, uncomfortable or unseen. These strangers are the diverse characters that are subjects in my psycho /social based artwork. I always have my camera in hand ready to catch an interesting scene. Some images are candid and the subjects are unaware that they have been photographed. Others are happy to share their stories and a small glimpse into their lives. Many of these images are of people (in costume); the attention seekers looking to stand out in a crowd. Some are just the opposite; those who want to blend and go unnoticed. It is not the superstars who we need always portray, but these individuals to better understand the currents of society. My images digest the posture of people while faces reflect their stories. Often going unseen and unheard, we all contribute and make up this diverse and multi-faceted population. I have studied the human form through drawing, painting and sculpture in a variety of media. I am confident in portraying movement, interaction and emotions that I perceive and am compelled to project these expressive moments.
APFA: You have also worked in set design, a curator, and as a teacher. How have those fields informed your artistic practice?
LH: After graduating from art school, I soon realized how improbable it would be for me to sustain myself as a fine artist, painter/sculptor. I immediately gravitated to set design as the ultimate 3D form of sculpture. It brought together installation sculpture, painting, lighting design and projection art. As a bonus, I was given a reasonable budget for my work. I strengthened my knowledge of spatial relations, the importance of additive vs. subtractive lighting, texture at different distances, structural form and a whole gamut of other very relevant elements. I think it is important to take these tools and share the knowledge with others so they have the ability to realize their visions. I enjoy teaching especially when I have students who are eager to learn and explore their talents. I share techniques and help them to see so they can express their creativity. I became involved with working in film, TV, and theater as a result and experimented in a variety of areas. I worked as a producer, set designer and scenic artist learning so many skills that have expanded my understanding of the arts. I qualified for the United Scenic Artists Union so I could work with and learn from the most talented in the field. I never agreed with the idea of specializing in only one particular discipline because it would limit my ability to express and reflect what I see. I find it most important to be proficient in as many media as possible. Through my work experience I learned so many techniques and concepts. These skills have helped me to grow as a fine artist as well as to gain sensitivity to appreciate other artists work. It is not enough to isolate yourself and create art, you need the skills to share it. Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to curate many shows. Curating is like assembling a puzzle. You become passionate about all of its pieces gaining insight on so many levels. Content, color, form and style all must to come together to create a cohesive installation. This is an invaluable skill that helps so much in creating your own series of works. It also gives you a greater appreciation of what gallerists and curators consider when putting up an exhibit. Along the way, I have had the fantastic opportunity to meet so many interesting and talented artists.
APFA: You have created a number of different series in various media. How do you decide which materials will work for a given piece?
LH: I think there is a natural progression in my work. If you view early works and follow the process, I tend to use painting as a cohesive material that pulls many aspects of my work together rather than a primary medium. I often incorporate photography in some form either as reference or an integrated element. I always consider architectural element and staging’s, regardless of the materials used. I tend to see things 3 dimensionally and find creating depth, volume and movement extremely important. I have used many media and experiment to find greener healthier materials that mimic the toxic plastics used in the past. Each series or piece dictates the materials chosen, whether it be for strength, color, weight and scale, lighting, or installation site. I enjoy challenging myself to come up with new techniques that I haven’t seen and enjoy being inventive with my work. My drawing and subject matter is classically figuratively based, emphasizing social and political issues. I take turns working in more difficult methods such as welding and then alternatively, papier mache. Copper screen sculptures are a challenge if I am up for a very physical and strenuous workout. Currently, I am working mainly in Papier Mache and chicken wire to give my hands a break and create a series that I can produce without completely wearing myself out. I find that I am still compelled to bring many of these different elements together in the current mixed media relief pieces. This series is growing and I am on my 11th piece. I am ready to merge these two series together as an installation and combine techniques in a new series.
APFA: You work with some unusual materials, copper screen, papier-mâché, blow torches, and lighting. What led you to working in these materials?
LH: I learned to weld in art school and was never a big fan of welding in steel. It is very strong but heavy and I often use as a structural element rather than a sculptural piece. I discovered copper some years ago and love its’ malleability. I realized I could control the copper’s shape and color and finish. As I further experimented, with the intensity of heat and type of gases, I realized I was entering uncharted territory. I taught myself to paint with the torch and control of the image burned into the copper. It is a magical experience to realize I could have such complete control. Over time, I have been able to create a whole palate of color and explore an exciting now technique.
My training and experience in theater creating scenery and props taught me many skills that are now an integral part of my sculpture work. I learned to create large, inexpensive and light weight and durable sculptural pieces. I have been working in chicken wire for many years as the most flexible and sturdy basis to most of my work. I think it is possible to make absolutely anything out of chicken wire and I seem to have a natural proficiency with it. My next challenge was to take copper screen which has a tight mesh pattern and sculpt it in the same way I do with chicken wire. I found this process very difficult. Copper mesh is quite beautiful and is affected by light similarly to a scrim that is used in theater. The possibilities are astounding and I am still pushing for new effects. With practice and experimentation these pieces are becoming larger and more detailed. The best part of these screen works are the shadows that are projected with light through the sculptures. They give off the appearance of detailed graphite drawings. It is quite satisfying to be able to combine painting, drawing and sculpture in one art form since I love to do all three equally. I am always searching for new materials and methods to challenge myself and express my art. I am passionate about continuing this series and work out the difficulties to make this technique more effective. I find it much easier to express myself through papier mache. and will be combining materials more aggressively, merging the two art forms.
APFA: What artists do you look to for inspiration?
LH: I make it a practice to try and avoid incorporating and borrowing techniques and style from other artists if I can at all help it. However, I have always found it important to study the works of the masters and contemporary artists that I admire. Concept is important, but I find it essential to become proficient with drawing skills, painting and understanding of color as well as sculptural style and touch. I have studied many artists although my drawing style is heavily influenced by Michelangelo. I have drawn the human body extensively and find that Michelangelo’s drawings are sculptural and imply depth and volume which is significant in my work. He was an amazing draftsman and inventor and I thoroughly respect and relate to this kind of sensibility. My absolute idol is Auguste Rodin. I think he has been my biggest influence in terms of understanding sculptural weight distribution, movement, form and touch. Other artists that I greatly respect and admire are Goya, (on the darker side of life), Daumier for the ironic satirical nature of portraying people in a socio political manner and Red Grooms. When I was in my early 20’s I created works that were quite similar in style to Red Grooms, but was unaware of his work. I was introduced to it some years later and immediately appreciated his use of materials and humor and am truly a great fan.
APFA: what do you want people to take from your art when they view it?
LH: I want a response. I want to have my work reach people when they see it. Whether it is something that disturbs them, or they can relate to as something they can understand better or bring to the surface. I want to these pieces to trigger a conversation, emotion, memory or awaken something in the viewer. They may find the work sad or funny or maybe they have a story that it reminds them of, but I don’t want the work to be trivial or dismissive. Much of art is often solely decorative or pleasing which is fine and necessary. That is not the concern in my work. My images digest the posture of society while faces reflect their stories. Often going unseen and unheard, we all contribute and make up this diverse and multi-faceted population, My mission is to help people to see the unseen and overlooked.
If you would like to find out more about Lori Horowitz and her art, please visit: lorihorowitz.com