Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman
Sometimes when I need a mental break from the ridiculousness of life’s stresses I look at pictures of internetz kittehs, or one of Kelly Lasserre’s many amazing illustrations. Her paintings are so simple and honest, but pack a punch like a good straight whiskey. Call them visual gags or illustrated poignant statements, you can almost always relate to her art on a personal level. When I met Kelly back in undergrad at MICA it felt like I had found a soul sister, or maybe we were kindred spirits from another lifetime, or maybe she’s an alien and stole part of my brain. I immediately fell in love with her art and have been a huge fan since. Come check out her piece “don’t look at me” at CLAW CLAW’s art exhibition and 1 night party “Tooth & Claw” on Saturday 10/12/13 at The Living Gallery.
SHANON WELTMAN: What are your biggest inspirations in life in general, as opposed to art?
KELLY LASSERRE: I would say life in general is where I draw most of my inspiration from, rather than other artists or something very specific. Waking up in this world with all these people in it. Interactions walking down the street. The same experiences everyone else is having I guess. A lot of my work is about things that I think are funny. I’m pretty much in my own head and it’s always fun when people are excited about the personal work I do, about these personal experiences I have or things I’m commenting on, and they relate to them. Which is totally because it’s about just being human.
SW: Would you say that there’s a moment you can feel or are aware of, when you figure out these funny sentences?
KL: I do have a moment, and a lot of times it’s right as I’m about to fall asleep. I’m like ‘holy shit, that’s something I need to record’. I don’t really keep a sketchbook, which is something I need to work on. I have notebooks of lists and a lot are little stories I want to address somehow. It’s starts with words, mostly. Which really wasn’t happening years ago, but now it’s more words or stories first and then I’ll incorporate an image sometimes. I try not to force it too much though. Sometimes I’ll write down an idea, and this is happening now, where I’ve been holding onto certain ideas for like months and months. It’s something I get excited about, but I don’t want to fuck it up. It’s not like you can do it and put it out there and be like ‘wait, I found a better way to do it… forget that I did that’, which I think prevents me from doing things sometimes.
…My work is pretty simple and I don’t do a ton of sketching. I’ll do really bare bones sketching on like a piece of computer paper. The thing that gets me excited about working and painting is that I kind of give myself this one go at it, and I don’t do a lot of editing. If I get halfway through with something and I destroy it, I’ll either abandon it forever, which is usually not the case, or I’ll start completely over. It’ll be something different the second time which ends up totally working out more than the first one was ever going to.
SW: Have any of your really successful pieces been that?
KL: I think pretty 50/50. A lot of times they come out how I wanted them to come out immediately, but there are times I’m like ‘I’m not going to ever make this work’ and then I give it one more go and I’m like ‘this is what it’s supposed to be.’ That’s kind of what happened with the piece that I’m showing. I was being angsty or something and I thought about the ‘don’t look at me’ as just the words. I should show you the some of the original things I was trying to do, which had nothing to do with a plant. This is what I mean about experiences in my life that are happening. So, ‘don’t look at me’, I knew I wanted to do something with those words, was happening simultaneously as this jade plant I’ve had for five years, that’s totally special, was starting to die. It was a presence in my life at the same time I was trying to make this painting. Originally it had nothing to do with the plant, but that’s what I mean, third go.
SW: What is your favorite subject matter to paint or illustrate?
KL: I would say of food and objects. We’re used to seeing these objects in our life every day, and removing them from their context, your life, its environment in general. Often times I wonder if it’s only interesting to me.
SW: Sounds the same and opposite as Andy Warhol. Whereas he took the mundane and multiplied it on this mass level, you’re taking the mundane making it this special, labored after thing.
KL: I think it’s nice to give these items that surround us everyday their moment to be considered. It’s kind of pitiful. There are some things I know why I want to paint them specifically, some random object, but other times not. There’s always some emotional aspect to it, but I try not to reveal it too much. So then it becomes something, this object that I’m exploring for other people to see, but I really only know why I did it.
And food. I want to catalog all the foods. I don’t even know where to start. I’d start with cheese, all the cheeses.
SW: How long does it take you to complete a painting?
KL: It really varies. It could be literally one hour from it popping into my brain, maybe two hours. There are definitely some that are out of nowhere, and those are the simple line drawings. I do have a problem, it might be my impatient nature; I want things to be completed in one day. Whether it takes me all day, hours and hours, it tortures me to have something unfinished. Which happens. Maybe at most two days. But I have a day job, so I’m not able to work whenever. I have trouble working more than nine hours in a day, and I get distracted.
That recent bobby pin drawing I did, I was in the middle of something completely different. I went from my studio to my bedroom and saw these bobby pins on the floor and immediately stopped what I was doing, got out a piece of paper and did that, and it was over in like 30 minutes. That kind of stuff is pretty exciting, even though it’s really simple and it doesn’t look like it took that long. Those are the things I immediately spit out. There are things I keep in my notebooks for months. There are things I have in my notebooks from two years ago that I still won’t touch… probably should though.
SW: Do you ever work digitally?
KL: No. It’s more if I do recipes or drawings of contents of this or that [a lot of different items], I’ll piece them together digitally. But I’ve never made anything in Photoshop or Illustrator. Illustrator scares the shit out of me. So, I’d say more laying out. The whole thing freaks me out and I like painting. I wish I had paid more attention when we were in school, but I was all ‘not interested’. Now I’m like ‘someone should have made me do that.’
SW: How have Mississippi, Baltimore, and New York influenced you specifically from each place, good and bad?
KL: I’d have to throw Massachusetts in there, because I grew up most of my life there. I think Baltimore was the first time in my life I realized that people’s behaviors are insane. It might have been because it was my first time becoming a person that’s aware of the world was in this very turbulent city. We saw a lot of nonsense go on there. That was also the time I started focusing on taking the really negative aspects of life and trying to put at least a humorous spin on it. I feel like a lot of my work is not dark, but honest, but it’s not depressing. I think Baltimore is always going to be kind of important.
It’s not really physically where I’m really ever at, it’s just what’s going on day to day, I could be anywhere having these experiences. The food, the recipes I choose are mostly Southern. My feelings for the South have this romantic aspect now that I’m not there anymore. I don’t think it’d be the same if I had grown up there my whole life. New York, sadly, hasn’t really added much to the mix either. Maybe I’m just learning that.
SW: Last question… how many times have you rode the Cyclone at Coney Island?
KL: Zero times! I don’t like roller coasters. I threw up in a baby stroller the last time I went on a roller coaster. I was like 13 years old. My stomach is not equipped for it.