Lala Abaddon is a New York-based artist that is getting more and more attention with her unique woven prints. After showing her works in several group shows, having them included in charity art auctions and achieving great results, she is now fully focused on her upcoming solo show at Castor Gallery in NYC in March 2015. So, while most of art world was focused to Miami, we visited her studio, saw some of the large works she is working on, witnessed how much patience and passion goes in her work, admired her unique and intricate processes, and met her adorable pet, Poquito.
Arrested Motion (AM): When did you start making art?
Lala Abaddon (LA): That’s a tough first question, especially for someone who has issues with the concept of time… My whole life, I have been envisioning things, creating elaborate worlds and theories in my head, sometimes putting them into physical form, other times just storing them somewhere safe and cool in the recesses of my mind until some divined moment. I wrote a lot through childhood and my teenage years, a lot of scathing and disturbing poetry, and I have been taking photos on film for as long as I remember, sometimes pairing them with my poetry. My Dad gave me my first camera and was the first person to teach me how to use it.
AM: What kind of works did you begin with?
LA: Most of what I created before I fully realized that I was “creating” was poetry and photo based. Once I found the confidence to make something that I could potentially share with the world, I really examined the idea of what it was I wanted to make. I settled on the goal of discovering a way to express complex narratives or tropes through analog photography. I wanted to share a period of time within one image; to make something solitary yet in motion. I wanted to make an image more than one image, like when you see a photograph or painting that has the weight of years behind it, but I also wanted to present it in a new or unique way that was fluid depending on the person viewing it.
AM: Do you have any formal art related education background?
LA: I took the basic fundamental art and design classes in college before I officially “dropped out.” For me, taking those classes confirmed for myself that I was an artist, and they taught me that every day practice is what will help your work advance. So I left, and have been treating my work that way since.
AM: When did you start making woven works?
LA: I made my first two woven pieces on June 8, 2013 and I haven’t really stopped weaving since.
AM: Well, that is a precise answer. How did that first happen?
LA: Basically, I was examining the concepts of time and space that I mentioned earlier and was cutting up some of my photographs and ended up weaving them back together in a simple basket weave. I was really into the idea of deconstruction and reconstruction in all of its physical and metaphysical applications at the time. Also, looking back I know I had recently finished The Obscene Bird of Night by Jose Donoso, which was life changing, and weaving is a constant theme in that book. So, I think subconsciously that spurred my impulse to weave the strips. I touch on this “moment” in the installation I am doing for my upcoming solo show – I am even using the book and actual page I have narrowed the genesis down to.
AM: Were you aware how far you could take this concept at first?
LA: I remember thinking a couple days after making the first, ohhhh, I should do this BIGGER, and with different patterns. I quickly went to 8×10’s and 16×20’s then by September I was working on a 36×24′. Since then, I’ve accepted that its applications are endless and have been working on creating time to explore all of the possibilities. Until then, I’m just storing any of the ideas that come to me for later use.
AM: How do you pick prints you work with?
LA: I start by allowing my intuition to guide me though my photo catalog and I screenshot anything that speaks to me that day. I arrange multiple images on my screen and just allow my mind to see and envision what they would look like woven together. I compare the flow or think about where the high contrast and low contrast areas will be. Occasionally, I will layer them in photoshop to get a feel about how everything lines up. Sometimes, I use photographs I took years ago that I had no idea would be suited for this one thing. Other times, I think of the kinds of photos I would like to use, and then paint or create these images and then photograph them.
AM: So you make the photos yourself?
LA: All of the photos I use are my own images, and all of my images, even the ones that are re-photographed multiple times, are from 35mm film. The film I use, the lens, the light and time of day I photograph in, are all specific to my work – they give me my raw image as I do not edit my photos in photoshop. Recently I’ve been painting on a macro level and photographing the paintings, then pairing those abstractions with a series of flowers I photographed in natural light that subsequently have a brilliant palette. I print all my photographs up to 13×19″ in my studio but send out for larger prints as I have yet to acquire a large scale printer. I also have been working with different paper types, including double-sided matte photo paper that has a texture like velvet and then also this semi-transparent Japanese Washi paper.
AM: Is there a story behind your work or is it more about its visual aspect?
LA: Oh, there’s a story. It’s a very long one. It’s a story I’ve been telling since the beginning and don’t think I’ll ever be done telling. But then the visual aspect of it IS the story. Love Tooth refers to the pain of first love/lust since you get your love tooth (aka wisdom tooth in western culture) during your formative sexual years. For the work I am doing now, the story is a bit more involved and focuses more on some other concepts I’ve been exploring my whole life like alternate realities, the idea that you carry access to the past, present and future within your own mind, the interconnectedness of the universe and therefore human interconnectedness, the space between realities along with the expansion and decompression of your own personal universe…
AM: And how important are the patterns you’re using?
LA: The patterns are very important. The patterns are everything. They are a metaphor to the patterns of life and the universe. For Love Tooth I used them to portray a complex feeling, wether it be desire and confinement or feeling overly saturated in men’s lust… The patterns carry the flow of the whole piece and if you have one that is just totally insane and confusing, you’re going to get that feeling from the piece in the end. Sometimes that’s what I want to say, other times I want it to be beautiful and rhythmic and flow gracefully. Other times, I just want to turn the world upside down.
AM: Do you create the patterns as well, and how do you do it?
LA: It depends on the piece, really. I have created them, I have adapted, manipulated or edited traditional weaving patterns, I’ve used obscure weaves I found in books published in the 17th century. I like the idea of using something so dated and formal in a sense and then giving it new life, but I also like creating completely new designs. I’ve been working on creating more complex patterns, there’s a lot of resources to do so, but none better than graph paper, a pencil, highlighter and headphones.
AM: Do you know of other artists that use similar technique?
LA: I know of artists who weave fiber into pictures, like the amazing Erin M. Riley, and I know artists have explored weaving as a component to their work, like Tauba Auerbach’s woven canvases, but I have not seen anything too similar in technique when you factor in how I utilize the design element of the weave patterns. The few example sof photo weaving I have seen is with your simple basket-weave, not damasks or crackle weaves or undulating twills. But I think art is moving in a direction where you use traditional techniques to create something modern, so I’m sure we will see more exploration in this vein in the future.
AM: Being such a prolific and hardworking artist, how much did your technique changed from when you first started?
LA: I think my technique has improved leaps and bounds all around. First is my confidence in the use of color. I am always reaching for a fresh balance and unique pairings. The weave patterns have always been challenging, but the craftsmanship itself has improved greatly. I used to hand cut each print with a ruler and box cutter, even the big pieces, but now I have a 42″ and 54″ Rotatrim (stationary rail cutter) which allows me to still manually cut the prints but in a more precise way so the margin of error has gone down incredibly so. Also, I am better about plotting the weave, which is to say, placing the strips after they are cut onto my “loom” the right distance apart to accommodate a very tight or very loose weave. I’m kind of hard on myself when it comes to improvement, so I always notice things I am pretty sure no one else will notice, but I try not to make the same “mistake” twice. To me, it’s about remaining calm and patient while literally doing the best that you can.
AM: Sounds like a lot of work. How long does an average piece take you to finish?
LA: My large pieces take me a month or more to weave. So, anywhere from a few days of just weaving to 30 days of weaving. But of course you have to factor in the numerous rolls of film needed to create the two images, editing them, printing them, working on the pattern, plotting the weave, etc. I’ll have a bunch of pieces in various stages of the process as any given time.
AM: What was the biggest one you created so far?
LA: The biggest I’ve completed is 30×40″ because that was as big as my Rotatrim could accommodate! I recently purchased a 54″ Rotatrim and am working on a 54×36″ landscape for the solo show.
AM: Do you have any new ideas you’d like to work on in the future?
LA: I have to ration the use of my ideas because most that come to me take a considerable about of time to actualize. Right now I’m fulfilling an idea I’ve been developing for a while which is the idea of a Metaweave. The Metaweave is a self referential piece that not only references itself, but myself, my life, my complex and confused memories. I have been in this state of dissatisfaction with my work where I really wanted it to evolve past its rectangular structure, so I have been obsessed with deconstructing, and then reconstructing the weaves themselves past the point where I used to consider them finished. I am touching on that now with dissecting some of the completed Metaweaves and then doing a webbed embroidery between the pieces, as well as breaking the flat plane of the framed weaves with an semi-interactive installation designed to take you inside one of the pieces.
AM: Any plans of entering the 3rd dimension with your work?
LA: My next series is going to push the “re-deconstruction” even further and I am looking forward to taking these huge pieces that I have woven for months, and then burning, tearing, cutting, and stretching them apart, only to reconstruct them to create even more space and time within the narrative of the piece. It’s all about making myself uncomfortable. When you are comfortable as an artist, you’re in trouble, and it is very comfortable for me, now, to sit for hours and make this perfect composition without any glitches in the pattern… it has become conventional to me and my number one mission in life is to upset the constructs of convention.
AM: Do you have any big dreams art career wise?
LA: Like ideas, I have a million billion dreams art-career wise. I dream constantly, when I am awake and when I am sleeping and anywhere between. I envision my work everywhere. I’d love to be in a museum, I’d love to eventually be in MOMA, which is a very special place for me. I’d love to do more installations. I’d love to have one piece to work on for an entire year. But when it comes down to it, I just want to continue to live a life where I get to create on a daily basis, and I want to be take everything as far as I can and stretch the boundaries… surprise myself and facilitate growth within myself and others. I want to say more, be more, do more, and hopefully bring people together in the process.
AM: What was the biggest most important moment in your career so far?
LA: Things keep building on each other so every moment seems increasingly important. I have to say I am overjoyed to be able to have a two floor gallery to do my solo show in. I have thought about everything being completed and I know that moment will stay with me forever as a very special achievement. Lately though I’ve been overwhelmed with support and astonished to be grouped with artists I really truly admire. I recently donated work to benefit two great organizations and my work was selected for a live auction with Hank Willis Thomas and Barnaby Furnas, it did quite well and went to a great collector. I’ve always tried to bring about positive change, so supporting things that I believe in through art is a pretty phenomenal honor. Also I was selected for a year long residency in NYC through the Artha Project and they have already done so much for me in pushing me to challenge myself and helping me find the resources I need to make an impact. It just feels very good to be welcomed and supported.
AM: Sounds like you’re getting a lot of good response to your work. How does that make you feel?
LA: I LOOVE seeing people react to my work. It’s a lot of sudden realization, a lot of “whoa dude.” I know from far away my work looks digitally manipulated, so you get a lot of people that see it close and have this “Sudden Clarity Clarence” face when they see it’s actually hand woven. A lot of people try to figure out or explain the process. Sometimes it is quite overwhelming for people and I can tell they feel this sudden connection to it. I have shared tears and hugs with people who really get it, really feel the emotions I’ve put into each piece. But more than anything, I love when people come up to me at shows and share their thoughts on my work, that it can affect people has been extremely motivating and enlightening, I really enjoy it. A lot of people have told me I’m insane when they see the tedious level of detail, but that’s ok, because I quite possibly am. I’m just happy that every day more people are able to connect with me through my work. It’s very personal for me, so feeling that connection with someone is really an unexplainable feeling.
AM: Do you have any shows or projects planned for the future?
LA: Yes! My upcoming solo show with Castor Gallery, March 2015. It will be a unique and transcendental experience. It’s based on my theory of Liminal Continuance and it is a physical examination of time through the alternation of line between two planes of space as well as the metaphysical study of the space between two realities, hence, liminal. Each piece in the show touches on a significant moment, a feeling of a person that influenced my life, and attempts to exemplify the warping time does to memory. The show as a whole will drag you into my mind and immerse you in these alternate realities I’ve been envisioning constantly. This show is a comprehensive introduction, a prelude to the future story I want to tell. It is to show the world what I can do with painting, photography and weaving. The next show will be completely different. My mind is already on that… the next step, breaking it down even more, confusing you, the viewer, confusing myself. I can see it already, and in the right time, it will build.