Friday, July 3, 2009

An Artist Unfolding: Interview with Randy Lagana, Part 3

This is a continuation of an interview with Randy Lagana. Please take the time to go back and read Part 1 and Part 2.

Your work that shows just a portion of the body - how do you decide (and why) what "parts" to work with?

I have a series of monochromatic paintings on my website that are composed to show only body parts or conceal the face. These paintings are portraits of elements that the human body can possess and express. I want the viewer to recognize these elements in him or herself. A face would always make it somebody else. I want the viewer to at least say, “that body looks a bit like mine and it’s beautiful, powerful” or something positive.

When I focus on parts, I’m working with the shapes that are interesting on their own and when placed within a frame create interesting negative space. Secondly, I do this with the intent to create an image that has a bit of abstractness. Abstract art “does not depict objects in the natural world, but instead uses shapes and colours in a non-representational or non-objective way.” When I say “a bit of abstractness,” I think I’m being very accurate, as I don’t move very far away from a representational depiction. Maybe one day I will create true abstract piece of art.

Sometimes, as with “Lean & Lovely” (left) and “Bound,” (right)
my intent is to be “in your face,” cause some discomfort.
I enjoy creating an image that you cannot escape from. The model for “Lean & Lovely” asked me why I framed the shot as I did. This shot represents to me her absolute truth and courage. She has removed her clothes and even her pubic hair, leaving nothing to hide behind because there is no need to hide. This is a totally clear and unobstructed view of the source of everything.

What are your thoughts, as an artist, on anything you feel like talking about now?

The first painting I did, kindergarten finger paintings notwithstanding, was in 7th grade art class and that’s when I found something special in the world. I was hooked the moment I put paint to canvas and since then I have been captivated by art, especially painting. Even when I’m not actually painting, I’m looking at everything as if I were painting it, him, or her. People and their outward appearances, their emotional state, and their behavior fascinate me. I have a degree in psychology and have worked as a police officer, a drug counselor, and a parole officer. I am totally intrigued by people.

I begin to paint long before I squeeze paint from the tube. What I paint is a decision based on varying factors. I may start with a thought or a question. Sometimes it’s simply that I’m entranced by the color and texture of say a mango and so I paint mangoes. Other times, I’m motivated to paint by a provocative question such as, “are we not all beautiful?”

People quite often ask, “what is the meaning” of a painting. Whatever a painting may mean to me, is what it means to me. When people ask this question, I usually say, “tell me what it means to you first!” I believe that the viewer’s interpretation is no less valid than mine. Some people have “seen” something in a painting of mine that I never saw nor intended, and I really like that. However, most of the time, there is no great philosophy buried in my paintings. Sometimes the painting is just about the beauty of a mango.

Do you have a question for me?

Robin, I have two questions for you. 1) What do you do to overcome writer’s block? 2) How do you know when you are done with a piece?
Randy, I'm often afflicted by writer's block. It seems to come on especially if I'm wanting to write. I'll sit down at my computer or with a notebook and ... nothing. What I usually do is just anything else. Read, take a walk, do domestic stuff like laundry or dishes, or go pull weeds. Though sometimes I do just sit and struggle and make myself miserable. I'd like to say that I'll pull out some writing exercise and do that, but I rarely do those when I'm blocked. What's ironic is that if I'm busy with stuff other than writing, I'll get all sorts of ideas. So I've learned to keep a tiny notebook with me at all times. It lives in my purse and comes with me on walks.
When it "feels" done. I know, very scientific and exact. With poetry, pieces can be fiddled with for years and not be done or be completed and submitted within a day or so (those are very rare). And being published doesn't guarantee they won't be revised. It's a little different with stories. They're not done until I'm ready to submit them. And usually it just comes down to a deadline. At some point I have to quit revising and send it off. That's hard to do. And then I try not to look at it. Because if I do I will find things I'd change and drive myself nuts.

Well, Randy, I hope you enjoyed doing this interview as much as I have. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions thoughtfully and in such detail. I'm hoping if anyone has any further questions we could continue this in the comments section.
I'm fascinated by the creative process, be it word-based, music, or visual. And I do think I'll do more of these interviews. I've already got some ideas.


Scarlett Greyson said...

Phenomenal interview, Robin and Randy *applauding*

Thank you both for taking the time to share your thoughts and processes with us.

Randy Lagana said...

Robin, I think it is interesting that you chose this image to begin the 3rd part of the interview. The Chinese characters mean "strength" and "integrity," which is also the title. I believe these are two necessary ingredients for meaningful art.

Craig Sorensen said...

Randy, I love your philosophy about a person's interpretation of a piece being as important as your own.

I believe this is true, even when I'm writing a piece of fiction, where I'm telling a specific story. Yes, the story tells about specific events and specific people, but how you do or don't relate to them, what you perspective on the characters and events may be very different than mine. Actually, I like it when it is different.

Your take on abstracted realism is something that my wife, who is a visual artist, has delved into. Through this, I have begun to appreciate pure abstraction. I'd love to see what you would do with it.

I enjoy your work, and that has only grown as I've read this interview.

Thank you both, Randy and Robin.

Donna said...

Yes, thank you, Randy and Robin for an amazing interview. So much to ponder and enjoy. I certainly hope you do more interviews, Robin. Also loved the way you allowed the interviewee to ask some questions, too.

I'm often asked the difference between erotica and pornography and that's been easy enough to define in terms of fiction. I also feel a "I know it when I see it" definition for visual images and Randy's work is most definitely erotica, but this interview helped me to understand the qualities that define that for me. I'm still not sure I can articulate it, but there's a clear respect for the aesthetic elements, the transcendent/universal qualities of the image and the humanity of the model, and a thoughtfulness and sensibility that shines through. Somehow in porn, the images could be produced by anyone, but with Randy's work and other erotic artists, you know you are glimpsing soul.

Thanks again!

Erobintica said...

Thanks Scarlett.

Randy, I didn't know what the characters meant, but I do know that they were one of the reasons why I chose this image. I also was taken with the held hand being in a fist, which to me signaled tension yet the hand holding seems more relaxed. One thing that doing this (picking out the photos) has made me think about is what it is exactly that draws me to certain images. My husband asked me a question along these lines recently and I actually think I'm going to do a blog post next week about it.

I like that they mean "strength" and "integrity" - makes me quite glad.

Thanks Craig, I thought you would enjoy this, with DeDe being an artist.

Donna, I'm glad you liked the interviewee getting to ask questions. I thought of doing that because there's been several occasions where I've heard someone (who's been interviewed, sometime often) say that they'd like to ask a question or two of the person asking them questions. I was worried that it would seem big-headed of me (always a fear). I think you'll be interested in the post that I'm going to do later this week, especially considering some of the ones you've done (thinking of your pictorials discussion from *can't remember the name right now* magazine).

Randy Lagana said...

Donna, Scarlett, and Craig,
Robin did a great job with her questions and making me think about my work. I'm very pleased that you have enjoyed the interview.

I appreciate your feedback. When I actually execute a pure piece of abstract art, I will be sure to share it with you.

I have had people walk out of a show because they were offended by my nudes. As an artist, you must learn to be all right with negative reactions. However, it still stings a little. At the other end of the spectrum, people can say things like "glimpsing soul." Thank you so much for that. Whenever self-doubt creeps in or someone is negative about my work, I will reread your comment.

Gina Marie said...

Robin, thanks again for this interview series. Randy, I just spent some time checking out your site. That last photo Robin posted -- "On the Seventh Day" really captured me. Your nudes are stunning but I also really love your surreal and sci-fi work. There is something about that woman on her moon blanket and your paintings with "windows" that really is really moving to me.


Randy Lagana said...

Gina Marie,
I'm very pleased to hear you enjoy my work. Every artist hopes for an emotional response to his or her work and hopefully a positive emotional response. I am very happy to hear that "On the Seventh Day" has a moving quality to it.
Thank you for your appreciation.