For Hispanic-Latinx Heritage Month, we're highlighting the practice of Venezuelan-Panamanian artist Lucha Rodríguez. In discussing how heritage impacts her work, Lucha reflects on her upbringing and the different ways, both consciously and unconsciously, Latinx artists have influenced her knife drawings. Watch the full interview on Instagram, or continue reading below.
Where are you from and where are you currently based?
I’m a Venezuelan-Panamanian artist based in Atlanta Georgia.
Describe the kind of work you create - how is it made, what inspires you?
My main body of work consists of “knife drawings”, created with a bas-relief technique on water-colored paper. Each knife drawing is created by making thousands of small superficial cuts over the surface of the paper. The knife drawings are a fusion of image, surface, and material. Altering the paper itself to create the lines, shading, and variations in color. My knife drawings connect you to the present moment again and again while you read their surface, and find patterns, colors, and spaces in between.
I am fascinated and inspired by the way we can perceive so much around us if we intentionally focus on something and at the same time we have so many preconceived notions of what we think is going on, or how things are, that we can ignore what’s actually going on in front of us. Our perception and state of mind, how much information we gather and process, and how we relate to all of it are so intriguing to me. There’s always so much more to be experienced if we question how we do, see, and perceive things. Even a single sheet of paper can surprise us and become an object for contemplation, calm, curiosity, and wonder.
There is an appreciation for simplicity and intimacy in all my works. Intentionally encouraging moments to slow down, to be with yourself and whatever is around you. There’s something about having a presence in stillness that I really like. Creating metaphors for our vague experiences in everyday life and our sensory limitations.
How long have you been working in this style or with these materials?
I have been developing the knife drawing technique for over a decade now, and it still continues to surprise me every time I work with it. I often come up with new ideas and concepts as I cut paper.
Before my knife drawing body of work, I used to focus on large-scale, site-specific paper installations. I loved the immersive feeling of installation art. It’s something that draws people in and intensifies the way they react to the work. So with time, I wanted to recreate that first-hand experience of color, light, texture, and presence of the installations within a smaller framed format that still lets you interact with the work and your surroundings in a unique way.
What is a typical day in your studio?
A typical day in the studio goes like this: I come in, open all the blinds, and let the natural light wash over the room. Get my coffee and water ready. Light up a candle, do self-hypnosis then write any thoughts, memories, sensations, colors, or anything that came up during my hypnosis. Then I sit in my drafting table by the window and follow whatever impulse or inspiration I have without judging it. Then I put that aside and start prepping paper, mixing watercolors, and finding the best spot in the studio with natural light to start cutting. After that, I take breaks and move to the other side of the studio to do office work, answer emails, get ready to ship, and deliver finished works and whatever needs to be edited, photoshopped, or posted. Then I go back to the drafting table cut a little more and continue the work I was doing in the morning. I only work during the day because I need to study the natural light and how it behaves on the surface of the paper. I have the same routine every day unless I have a special project, art fair, or exhibition installation. Being in my studio makes me want to create more and improve my practice. I appreciate every minute I spend there, it’s a very special place for me, and I hope it will continue to be for a very long time to come.
Consciously and sometimes unconsciously I am informed by the traditions, contributions, and sensibilities of so many great Latinx artists such as the way they related to geometry, color, space, scale, and rhythm which was heavily present in the public art, architecture, textiles, stories, food, and landscapes I grew up with.
What moments in your process do you enjoy the most?
The moments in my process that I enjoy the most are the time spent researching, studying new concepts or techniques, and experimenting with different materials. Sometimes it seems to be going nowhere but the more I learn about the way we perceive, navigate, and interact with our surroundings the more the work keeps expanding and it brings me back to the studio every day. I still make large wall mock-ups that inform the smaller framed works, which is always a part of the process I enjoy.
What does ‘heritage’ mean to you?
Heritage to me, means a special connection to a particular way of being, feeling, thinking, expressing, and understanding the world. Something that links you with the memory of your past, the reality of the present, and the promise of the future. The root and the heart of your being at its core and part of the values and traditions you uphold.
How do you think about culture and identity in relation to your work?
I think about culture and identity in my work as something very dear to my heart. Consciously and sometimes unconsciously I am informed by the traditions, contributions, and sensibilities of so many great Latinx artists such as the way they related to geometry, color, space, scale, and rhythm which was heavily present in the public art, architecture, textiles, stories, food, and landscapes I grew up with. They are all my references and standards of what culture can be and the ways it can be expressed.
Feel free to tell us about a specific work.
Papagayos (kites) are a specific body of work that showcases and celebrates more openly my Latinx heritage by exploring both the traditional game specifically tied to Venezuela’s popular folklore and how its meaning has evolved and changed as a cultural symbol. I learned how to make kites in school as a child and I will never forget that first kite that took flight. It is one of my happiest and most recurrent childhood memories so I had to honor and research the symbol of the Papagayo through my work.