nycARTscene Interview: LNY
LNY’s latest outdoor mural, “The Golden Hour,” is located at 22 East 2nd Street (between Bowery & 2nd Avenue) in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The new artwork launched the 2013 season of Fourth Art Block’s Public Art Program.
nycARTscene’s Hannah Krafcik leads us in conversation with the artist:
HK: Your previous public art features an array of creatures—usually hybrid creatures—that are often constrained or engaging in struggle. Can you describe the dynamic between humanity and nature in your work?
LNY: Struggle is definitely a recurring theme in my work, not only because conflict is part of our everyday, but because I find something incredibly beautiful and empowering about overcoming obstacles as part of the human condition. This tends to generate progress. I often like to complicate the depiction of this conflict through the concept of hybridity—animal and human, or machine and animal—because of the romantic and powerful archetypal connections we naturally have to these symbols. Also, hybridity is a big part of my multicultural background—being both Ecuadorian and American, speaking mixed languages, working inside and outside the law, and living in transit.
HK: How might this come into play in your most recent mural with Fourth Arts Block in the East Village? Can you elaborate on the concept?
LNY: This mural, and most of my recent work, has become the long tail result of research, intuition, and improvisation, which is all driven by location, the people I meet and the inherent conflicts the environment offers. The recent mural was born from reading about a dead sperm whale that washed ashore in the Aegean Sea. The Scientists who examined the whale’s corpse, which was both bloated and emaciated, were surprised to find its stomach full of plastic bags. So I imagined that experience of stumbling upon a gigantic whale’s dead body, and how it must feel to have this mountain of dead flesh in front of you…I wanted to replicate that awe and, at the same time, point to the magnitude of this problem: Humans intervening with natural ecosystems and creating climate change.
The narrative of the mural goes on to include a double headed tricolored heron being invaded by nature and technology, which happens to the whale as well as they both struggle to survive. I eventually titled the mural The Golden Hour after the medical term for the window of time following trauma or injury, during which treatment is most effective.
HK: How would you like your work to engage or activate the people who see it?
LNY: Well, this is one of the most important questions, but also one with the less defined answer. Of course I would like for communities and viewers to either engage the work as an intervention of color and form in architectural space, or to take something positive away from it. This can affect people by simply making them smile, or by even inspiring someone to create something of their own. But it is very hard for me to gauge that reaction because it usually happens long after I’m gone. So, in this case, I’m just left with good wishes and an invitation to participate.
While making this mural, I brought over my growing collection of plastic bags picked up from the streets. Wanting to somehow use them in the mural, I finally decided to have their materiality speak for itself and, along with other trash from the site, I placed them at the entrance of the whale’s mouth. The fun part is that the bags and trash are only flimsily stapled to the wall. You could technically go to the site, like right now, and clean up this metaphorical ocean I painted. Or, you could actually clean a real ocean, upcycle your trash, take some form of action, or become aware of how we are affecting our environment before whales start swimming down alphabet city for brunch.
HK: What kinds of environments and geographic locations attract and /or inspire you?
LNY: Like most of us, I grew up in the middle of the urban sprawl, from the small and colonial in South America to the immense and complex geography of New York & Seoul. These environments shaped me and gave rise to the language and processes I use to make art today. But what I find most amazing, and what fills me with joy, is being able to imagine a future beyond our current state. To see the possibilities afforded to us by the same technology that can do such harm to the planet and understand that we can create our own healthy and sustainable environments. To me, making free public art, both legal and otherwise, is part of this effort and inspires me to make more and more. In a way, my quest is to prove to myself and others that this ideal is possible and that art can be an integral part of it. Some days this is way easier said that done, but we move on.
HK: Where are you planning to paint next? Where would you like to put your work next?
LNY: I have a couple of overarching projects I’m working on right now, specifically another collaboration with the Brooklyn based non-profit Young New Yorkers, a show with Newark based Solo(s) Project House during Fountain Art Fair and residency there—plus other surprises for New York and some upcoming trips. What all these projects have in common is the drive to create and interact with people and public space so they all revolve around that idea, even if paint is not involved. I find this more interesting sometimes, as it involves a different approach, collaboration, and new challenges. The question for me its not where would I want to put up work, but where do I need to put up work. Where does it need to exist, and what makes it necessary to manifest there?