Artist of the Week: Lucas Briffa

Lucas Briffa was born and raised in Oakland, California. He received his BA in Visual Arts from Oberlin College in 2012 and is currently pursuing his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. From 2012-2013 he spent one year working as a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Academic Programs at the Allen Memorial Art Museum.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I was raised by ballet dancers who thought it better to home school their children than send them to Oakland public schools. Because of all my free time I spent most of my childhood camping and traveling around the Pacific Northwest. I also spent a lot of time alone. Sometimes, as a child, I would get up at 7am and watch the sunrise from my front yard. I used a steel pipe for protection. Often the impulse I am following is reminiscent of the terrifying and euphoric. In my practice I would say that almost all my research is about how we experience landscape, directly and through mediation.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? The polar vortex. I was in the Bay Area when it passed through Chicago, but I keep searching for traces of its effect on the city. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this video.

How did your interest in art begin? When I was five or six my grandfather taught me how to use a film camera and together we printed a picture in his homemade darkroom. After that, it wasn’t until high school that I was exposed to fine art. Sean McFarland was the first photographer to introduce me to people like Olafur Eliasson, Todd Hido, and Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison. Seeing those images inspired me to make visible my interpretation of how reality is constructed and experienced.

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What were you like in high school? There was a rumor that I slept with one of my teachers.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? The creation of the real through the artificial is something I have returned to with several projects. Currently I am working on arranging a stream in my studio. For now it is made up of paper water and resin rocks, but I will eventually incorporate traces of people. I am also helping put a publication together that will showcase the work of all the graduate photography students and will be accompanied by a text from Karsten Lund. It will be available at the MFA thesis show coming this Spring.

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What past trends in art do you think should never come back? I hope that no trends ever come back. That means we’re failing.

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Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? When I was in college I played a video game designed by Fumito Ueda called Shadow of the Colossus. For about a week I spent more time wandering around that world than I did in real life. I have been fantasizing about designing a virtual landscape with him ever since.

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What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? Anywhere near a Giant Sequoia. Some of them are 3,000 years old and over 300 feet tall. Also they make the air smell amazing.

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Tell us about your work process and how it develops? I think of my process as a cumulative one. Almost everything I end up making is directly responding to something I have done before. In this way I think I am trying to simultaneously look as far forward as I do behind. Recently I have been scrapping a lot of projects. I hope that means a change is going to come.

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What are you reading right now? The Sublime from the Documents of Contemporary Art publication put out by Whitechapel Gallery, The Picturesque: architecture, disgust and other irregularities by John Macarthur, and a book of poems by Rumi.