Transcribed discussion between artists Larissa Hammond and Vivian Gottfredson
August 21, 2017
VG: Do you wanna… talk about your work a little bit?
VG: So today was the solar eclipse
LH: Yea it was
VG: Mhmm. And that’s really cool.
LH: It is really cool. It’s a special holiday.
VG: It is a special holiday. And it was special for you because it had… it was in your 10th house?
LH: Mhmm. The house of career.
VG: Yes, Indeed. So it’s a good day to talk about your work!
LH: It’s a very good day
VG: It’s a very appropriate day and time and time of day.
VG: I’m thinking about walking around the exhibition and people kept approaching me as if I were the artist but nobody was calling me the artist.
LH: Uhuh. They’re like, "you understand this language, right? Can you translate for me?"
VG: Yea, exactly! It was a translator thing.
LH: You’re like, well, let me translate it for you. My girlfriend is fucking another woman and I like to watch.
VG: *laughs No! I didn’t just say that outright, God. I was wearing a nice dress.
VG: No, I would just tell them that they’re really supposed to have, that I wasn’t supposed to tell them how to experience the work. That it was really important for them to just come to the work as they were.
LH: Do you think people felt like they were being deceived?
VG: I think your mother did. I think the deeper someone could be in the work the more questions they could have.
VG: The interview that came out on WFYI I thought was kind of interesting.
LH: How so?
VG: Um, I don’t know! I just I feel like she really missed the point or something. I was listening to it and I was trying to write stuff down and I couldn’t really follow what was being said because it felt so-
LH: From me or from the interviewer?
VG: From the interview. Because it was like you would say something and I would start following that line of thought and then it was like she would start talking about something totally different.
LH: Yea. I feel like there’s people who write about art or people who talk about art and there’s people who do art. And I feel like they kind of have different roles. Like, I don’t think they’re makers of art or participators in art other than, like, writing about it like a story or segment. But it’s interesting because the title of it is called The Art of the Matter, like, The End of the Story.
LH: Do you know what I mean? Their purpose is to reach a conclusion within a short segment or a short amount of time
VG: Yeah, ok, so there’s like a structure
LH: This is the art of the matter. This is the crux of the story. But I feel like my work is leftover spaghetti where you’re trying to get all the noodles in the container and the noodles just keep spilling out the sides and it’s a big spaghetti monster that’s messy and uncontainable. It seems like they were trying to build the box around something that didn’t fit in it.
VG: And that’s what this art is about! It’s a ‘what art’s about’ kind of framing which is so strange. It feels reduced to look at contemporary art that way. It seems like it can reduce the work to something that it’s not.
LH: Yea, but I think artists kind of play into it too. You hear artists that will make an object that looks good in a photo for a portfolio but it’s not an art object. It’s like a storefront marketing-art hybrid. And like, also the fact that photography is documentation of something and the art in itself sometimes too and that can be confusing. Like, there’s a complicated relationship between how things are distributed and what they actually are. Do you know what I mean?
VG: Yea. Mhmm. But you’re saying that’s how you feel the interview went?
LH: Well, I feel like the person who I was interviewed by related to it through a certain lens and maybe it was a way they were able to connect with my art or something they were excited about and they saw a pattern… Like, she seemed really interested in neuroscience and I don’t know what her relationship with neuroscience is but if she’s interested in it from a neuroscience lens then she’s going to see it through that lens. And it’s cool that she’s excited about it even if it’s not the lens I look at it through. I think there’s a lot more to the story than the fact of the matter. All of the other active and inactive and messy parts of it that don’t fit into a narrative that’s digestible…. I don’t know. You make your art and it leaves you and the world does what it will. And I think that’s already happening with my art. There was sort of a mis-wording of Ariana’s involvement in my work. Where like, I did all the work and there was sort of like a question as to what language should be used to explain her involvement because it’s kind of unexplainable in a structured art sense.
VG: Oh yea
LH: And so I think there’s been a lot of confusion around language. WFYI called me Larissa Howard. But even before that stuff there has always been ambiguity and existing conflicting truths in my work. Like there’s questions if you look at, for example, the article from Modern Painter. I was going to potentially be in a magazine called Girls Against God and had gotten the approval to say that to the magazine and then I ended up not being in it. There’s questions as to what I’ve actually done with my career. Like even, with everything, there’s always these weird communications that come up around it but I think that over time it will start to show that the work works. There’s actual things happening in real life that have a lot to do with the work, all these miscommunications, all these shades of communications where it’s not that something is true or false it’s that there are many different truths because there’s many ways to see something.
VG: Mhmm. Yeah.
LH: And so all of these things can exist together and also contradict each other.
VG: That’s really interesting the body of work you made and the communication around what it is or like, I think people have asked a lot of questions like how should I look at this? What does it mean? What were you painting? A lot of questions that mean, how do I look at this?
VG: And it’s because it’s a different way of seeing. And you talked about it in the interview and you mentioned it once before to me about working with densities and then responding and tuning those almost? And that’s a completely different way of seeing and so people are asking how do I look at this?
LH: It’s such an intimidating thing to ask somebody to look at something how they see it. Because it’s like whatever the person brings to the work is what, I think at least, they’re going to see back.
VG: Well, it’s not only that. It’s also that, on top of that, people are being asked to look at something using a different set of abilities than they are used to.
LH: Yeah, I think though that it doesn’t require- I think art can be so intimidating for people because they think it requires some kind of specialized knowledge but it doesn’t and I’m not trying to make work that’s a body of work where only certain people can understand me or look at it or get it or whatever. I’m not trying to conceal meaning, there’s just so much that it’s nice for people to bring their own experience of the world and maybe even a good place to start can be trying to see your own experience reflected in the paintings. Like, that could be a way of connecting.
LH: How [Claudette*] made it from Trinidad to the Manhattan School of Music I have no clue. Do you send in an audition tape? Did the mail deliver tapes back then? It’s so mysterious, that process of, like, how are you in a less than ideal situation without many resources and you play piano. And then like how do you end up at one of the most prestigious schools in the United States? How did she make the audition tape? What made them decide that they wanted her? I want to know.
LH: She collected art and she made beautiful things and she wouldn’t talk to us about art but I could tell when she was happy because she would start doing her art around me or my sister. You could tell what brought her joy because she would just start making. Whether it was just softly playing the piano in the corner or putting flowers together or just whatever. And as soon as you noticed what she was doing she would immediately stop. It was like playing parallel, like we were playing parallel to each other a lot. It wasn’t about her performing or whatever she just loved music and she wanted to do that when she was happy and it was cool, the creative energy of children playing is such a creative source. And it’s a cool connection to have even just that. Joyful playfulness and loving for the sake of loving. It’s just sweet. It’s a sweet way of making art.
LH: I feel like that spirit is the kind of spirit I tried to make all of those paintings. Like, even if stuff was going on, like really difficult stuff- it wasn’t about the stuff that was going on, it was about the way through the stuff and making sure that I was honestly putting that into the canvas so that anybody might use it as a path.
VG: There’s a lot of light in all of each canvas.
LH: Yea, and it’s not about taking certain steps. I know they did that comparison between me and art therapy. The funny thing is I don’t believe in art therapy or most therapies to be quite honest because I think any time you’re following prescribed steps you’re not necessarily actually looking internally, you’re worried about following steps. Sometimes steps aren’t logical. Sometimes they are. Figuring out your internal power source, figuring out how you feed that power source, figuring out how to keep it going without sucking yourself dry of energy are the things that people should learn for healing because I think that’s why a lot of people do unhealthy things, because they’re not healthy. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a therapist.
*grandmother of LH
LH: I’m really stoked that Shauta wanted to show my work. When she was stapling my art to the wall it was the sexiest thing.
VG: That’s not even something that’s talked about at your opening…
LH: That was the sexiest motherfucking thing. It was like we all had sex before the show and we nailed shit to the wall. It was so funny because Shauta is the one who originally thought she would send me a canvas and when we were originally talking about it she said “you can staple whatever to it when you get here,” that was something that she had said. And I thought to myself, huh? And it was something that kept ringing in my head. And then another time I was talking to Ariana closer-ish to the show and she was talking about potentially painting on it and mentioned stapling. But it was funny because Shauta had brought it up and separately Ariana brought it up and I’m like, staple? What is up with staple? I wasn’t thinking ever of stapling stuff to it but I was just thinking in my head where are staples going to come in?
LH: It was just sexy. It was aggressive and sexy. Things have been so gentle in certain ways with the work and with my health and it was just nice for somebody to womanhandle the shit out of them. I love not being precious about it.
VG: You were dancing.