Visual Artist: Letha Wilson
My name is Letha Wilson.
2. Where you based?
I am based in Brooklyn, NY and Craryville, NY (Columbia County).
I am a Visual Artist.
4. Tell us about yourself.
I am a full-time artist and I work with landscape photography in very sculptural ways. I combine photographs I have taken myself, often in the American West, with industrial materials and processes such as concrete, steel, wood, and architecture.
5. What influences your art? How would you describe your artistic style?
Walks and hikes in nature influence my work, as well as daily life in the city. I grew up in Colorado, and my family spent a lot of time in the Rocky Mountains, including many summers of week-long backpack trips. I moved to the East Coast for school, and have lived in New York City for over twenty years, so the urban environment has enveloped me for quite some time. I am interested in how these two spaces / places can co-exist.
Artistic influences in terms of movements would be minimalism, land art, feminism, conceptualism, environmentalism and abstraction. In terms of style, something like landscape minimal maximal, or industrial landscape perhaps.
6. Describe the meaning behind the use of steel and concrete. How did you learn to weld?
I am interested in ways in which we assume materials should behave or be approached, and what happens when they don’t fall into line. I first started working with concrete around 2009, and have been fascinated with how it can work in combination with color prints, specifically. There is a magic about concrete that I feel is akin to photography, and I spent many years working with these materials and have found a surprising array of results. I still do. And steel is a somewhat newer material, which I am learning more about as I work with it. Although I do the plasma-cutting myself, I work with a steel shop in Brooklyn and they do the structural welds and let me use their shop. For these pieces, and for larger scale pieces, I work with printers and fabricators beyond my own studio.
7. Which of your pieces is your favorite? Why? What is the story behind it?
I couldn’t really pinpoint a favorite piece, I think each piece represents a time and place for me, and ideas or techniques I learned through the process. Each work has a struggle but some is more evident in the final result. I don’t get very attached to each work, like I used to, but instead I am happy to let the work go out into the world. I am usually moving on to the next piece or idea rather than lingering with the older works.
8. How and when did you get into sculpting?
Beginning in graduate school at Hunter College, as I have always been drawn to sculptural and installation works and how these can create a relationship with the viewer on a physical scale. I think my interest in site and space developed from that sense of landscape, and the in turn the intimate arena of the interior space. I really had to spend a lot of time learning how to build things, because I think it doesn’t come as naturally to me as two-dimensional design, or photography.
9. Which artists do you draw inspiration from?
One of the amazing things about living in New York is how many artists are working here, and that you get to really understand and be inspired by them on a daily basis. These artists are inspirational to me through both their work, and themselves as humans. This could be a long list, so I will just name a very few: Brie Ruais, Jacolby Satterwhite, Kate Steciw, Carolyn Fisher, Rico Gatson, Miguel Luciano, Amy Feldman, Clive Smith, Jackie Sumell, Brian Bress, Cammie Staros. There are so many more!
10. Describe to us your current project.
I have just finished a solo show titled “Cross Country” that will be opening at GRIMM Gallery in Amsterdam on May 18. The show is a series of seven new medium-scale sculptures, created with UV prints onto corten steel and welded together. This is my first show with only free-standing sculptural work. It has taken me years to gradually move off the wall, strangely enough.
11. What are some of the challenges you face when exhibiting your pieces?
As I work with material that can often be quite heavy, this can be a challenge to move and transport. However often what I determine to exhibit is in some cases decided by the limitations; I can work in a site-specific way where I create works on site, or bring works from my studio to the gallery. I like both ways of working and the flexibility of being able to pull from many methods of creation when I approach an exhibition. Other challenges include the cost of production, which in some cases will dictate what is possible.
12. What is your greatest accomplishment?
Just being a full-time artist and somehow pulling this off for so many years. It has often been a challenge, but I keep figuring out a way. Knock on wood.
13. What are some misconceptions about your art and sculpting in general?
Sometimes people are surprised by the scale of my work, which can be deceiving in photos. Perhaps sometimes both they think something is actually smaller, or even larger. I want the work to always be the most powerful in person. I think people are often surprised by the physical impact of the work in person, if they have only seen images of it before.
14. Where do you showcase your work?
I am represented by several galleries in the US and abroad, and my work is shown in group exhibitions and projects at both commercial and non-profit spaces. Currently I have an outdoors sculpture on view at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum outside Boston, that will be on view for another year. It is my first outdoors sculpture that uses photographic imagery and lead to my most recent series of works.
15. What advice can you give to beginning artists?
You can’t control whether people like your work, as difficult as that is to accept. But the good news is, you can control what you do with your time, and where you focus your energy. So, make it your studio as much as possible and concentrate your efforts there.
16. What are your goals for the future?
Keep learning, keep making art, and continue to share these ideas and visions with others. Be kind. Learn to garden, and minimize my carbon footprint.
17. What is your motto in life?
Love what you do, and do what you love.