CMA Stories

“My work is about this longing for a place far away, and a back-and-forth between your physical location and your memories and thoughts” — 5 Minutes With Artist Letha Wilson

Born in Hawaii, raised in Colorado, and now based in Brooklyn, Letha Wilson is a mixed media artist who counts the natural world and its photographic image at the root of her artistic interests. For her artwork on view in Home Sweet Home: Is a Home a Sanctuary? Wilson turns flat images into sculptural objects. Her photographs draw attention to the relationship between architecture and nature, landscapes and the places we exist in, and the intersection between traditional ideas of home and haven. Get to know the artist below!

In your work, you take photos of nature — often of iconic Western landscapes, such as Joshua Tree on view in our Home Sweet Home exhibition — and turn them into innovative sculptural pieces by physically altering the printed photographs through pleating or cutting. Next, you merge the altered photographs with physical architectural objects such as concrete, turning them into genre-defying works of art that speak to the ways in which natural and man-made objects speak to each other and to us. How does the conversation between nature and the man-made comment on the idea of “home” in your work?

When Jil Weinstock [CMA’s Curator] approached me about this show, I really enjoyed thinking about how this concept related to my work. I think that these pieces can expand the idea of home from beyond an interior or architectural space. During my childhood in Colorado, our family spent a lot of time in the Rocky Mountains hiking and backpacking, so these memories are some of my strongest. I moved to New York State over twenty years ago, and yet I still consider Colorado my home in many ways. My work is somewhat about this longing for a place far away, and a back-and-forth between your physical location and your memories and thoughts. The works seek to merge these two states: being present in your current location, and a recollection from time spent elsewhere.

Why did Joshua Tree become an area of interest for your photographs?

The first time I visited I wasn’t really struck by it, but I made another trip there by myself in 2014 and the whole place just clicked for me. I had such a magical time, and then decided to go back again for a longer period to work on what would become the Bronze Push series (one is shown from this series at the CMA). Joshua Tree National Park is hands-down my favorite park, and I love how it is both accessible and easy to wander off in many directions. The light, the desert, the rocks, the Joshua trees… amazing!

Do you have a favorite quote about “home” from a movie, book, or song?

“Only the traveling is good which reveals to me the value of home and enables me to enjoy it better.” — Henry David Thoreau

In your own words, what does “home” mean to you?

Home is a familiarity, perhaps a sense of belonging and feeling genuinely you. That place can even travel with you and it is possible to make many physical locations feel like home across a lifetime. It is a place to feel safe, and to feel is there to return back to at any time.

What do you think makes “home” feel like a unique concept as a New Yorker?

Living in NYC for twenty years, I have had so many “homes” in the sense of the apartments I have lived in — there is a lot of displacement here but with that comes a way of being able to make anywhere your home. Now, I think my studio more of a home than my living spaces, because I spend the most time here… but I think the city as a whole also feels like home to me in general. The familiarity of the subways, the everyday bustle and movement of people, the ideas and intensity.

Home Sweet Home: Is a Home a Sanctuary? is on view until May 3, 2020 in the Cynthia C. Wainwright Gallery at Children’s Museum of the Arts.

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