OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Lynn Aldrich

Un/Common Objects
Installation view

LYNN ALDRICH is "seeking a reinvestment in physicality." Her sculptures employ the accumulation and organization of found objects and material—often purchased from Home Depot—to reorient viewers to their experience of their bodies. She transforms the excess of mass production into an opportunity for contemplation of our relationship to consumption and its effect on the natural world. In 2014, Lynn was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, and her work joined the permanent collection at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. She will debut a major new steel sculpture titled Future Water Feature on July 25, 2015 at Edward Cella Art+Architecture, where her solo exhibition More Light Than Heat will open in October 2015. Lynn is represented by Edward Cella in Los Angeles and Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco and New York. She lives and works in Los Angeles.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Many of your materials—garden hoses, plastic tubing, rain gutters—reference the flow of water. Could you talk about this recurring metaphor in your work?

Lynn Aldrich: I wanted to use materials that were ordinary, usually part of a middle class life, which is at times overwhelmed by products and options. From this banal bounty, I decided to select only what carried potential for a kind of revelation. Twenty years ago, we were not so concerned with water environmentally, but it has consistently been a powerful and layered metaphor for spiritual and physical renewal. So water-related materials seemed inherently capable of meeting my conceptual criteria. 

Garden hoses, brass ends, fiberglass, steel
60 x 55 x 32 inches

OPP: What other recurring material metaphors do you use?

LA: Other material choices also bear some sort of relationship to my observations of and appreciation for the natural world—light and dark and color in the landscape, flora and fauna diversity, cosmic extravagance. For example, in Constellation, I purchased lampshades in various shapes, fabrics and sizes. They already evoked metaphors associated with wonder and transcendence. The decision to fill each one with a modeled, concave center, painted to reference diverse experiences of light, seemed like a simple, direct means to reveal spiritual mystery already present in these objects.

Light Sucker
Lampshade, wood, modeling compound, gesso, acrylic, oil
20 x 20 x 16 inches

OPP: You employ the strategies of repetition and accumulation in the creation of found object sculptures. Each piece has the potential to go on and on. How do you know when each piece is done? What stops you from expanding these discrete sculptures into immersive environments?

LA: I have a sculptor’s interest in form and differences in scale relating to space. So at a certain point, the quantity of something seems to be appropriate for what the work is intended to accomplish. My artistic choice is to confront, to call the already immersed viewer out of the fog and say, stop, be still, consider this.

For me, the repetition is not about infinity, but about revealing paradoxical truths inherent to physicality – something like the New Testament’s concept of Incarnation. This is the idea that God signifies matter, the “stuff” of creation, as good, by entering history in the flesh (Jesus Christ). Artists continually explore this paradox whether they realize it or not—what is obvious and ordinary also bears worth and meaning beyond its material presence.

Seeking Sanctuary
Corrugated plastic panels, fiberglass, aluminum.
55 x 19 x 68 inches

OPP: In your statement, you refer to a “spiritual or sacred longing for revelation and authentic transcendence” that “is the profound paradox at the core of all true religion and artistic activity.” How do you reconcile that longing with our contemporary consumer society, as represented in your materials?

LA: Actually, it’s not possible to reconcile this longing, this desire beyond desiring, with being in the world – therefore we have art and religion. I am using the word religion in its original, etymological sense as from the same root word for ligament, a tie back to God. What used to be the “bounty of nature,” the extravagance we appreciated as coming from God’s provision, we now believe to be of our own making. I walk through the aisles of Home Depot and see products literally pouring down the sides. But am I in a “garden of delights” or a spiritual wasteland? Or as T. S. Eliot asks, can we experience being in the garden even though we are walking through a desert?

Sponges, brushes, scrubbers, scouring pads, mop heads, plungers, plastic gloves, plumbing parts, wood
42 x 30 x 28 inches

OPP: In 2013, you mounted a mid-career retrospective, curated by Jim Diechendt and Christina Valentine, called Un/Common Objects at Williamson Art Gallery at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. What’s it like to see work spanning two decades exhibited together? Did this lead to any insights about your own work?
LA: I can only say that it was an incredible experience. Bringing the works together (many borrowed back from collectors which I had not seen in years) and arranging them in a beautiful, spacious architecture finally produced the immersive experience you mentioned. The curators allowed a kind of “compare and contrast” placement that brought up interesting analogies I had not seen before.

Shell Collection is a work from the 90s made from T-shirts dipped in resin, in ten successive sizes from newborn to adult. The viewer peers through the waist or neck and sees a kind of infinite tunnel of “shells” implying one’s passage through life and time. Now this work could be experienced next to Wormhole, a huge nesting of fake fur in cardboard tubes made 15 years later—another compelling tunnel into infinity. I thought these connections existed as I made the work over time, but now I would walk through the gallery sometimes when no one was there and give myself a high five!

Fake fur in 10 colors, cardboard construction tubes in 16 diameters, electric light (optional)
4 x 4 x 25 feet

OPP: What role does mystery play in your practice?

LA: My work has a kind of simplicity and stillness that belies the struggle and doubt I often have while making it. For example, in constructing a minimal box out of white, wood pickets titled Subdivision, I began with only one material. I was sure it would end up being white, but at every turn there were decisions to make and problems to solve. How many pickets will reach just the right scale? The points aren’t as sharp as I want, so instead of buying them, do I need to make them myself? How do I put it together and take it apart? The physicality of the thing was wearing me down. I started to doubt it would be anything more than a pile of fencing. But in the end, I felt there was a lovely mystery to the surface of a “community” of pointed wood stakes.

Author, Flannery O’Connor speaks of the necessity for the writer or artist to “maintain a respect for mystery.” We live in a material age where science and technology rule, yet there is a throbbing mystery at the core of existence. It’s the role of artists, poets, students of philosophy and theology to wrestle with this.

To see more of Lynn's work, please visit lynnaldrich.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.