Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with artist Maria Lux. In the Oct. 7 newspaper, we'll have a visit with Deb Richardson, an actress, costume designer and now a director in local theater groups.
Q: How long have you been doing research into and making art about animals?
A: I probably started doing that two years ago. I've always loved animals as subject matter, and as a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian.
Q: Is all your work research-based?
A: I would say so. It almost always originates in other disciplines and their research, and then I try to make work about what they're doing.
Q: It seems a lot of visual artists are creating research-based work. Or is it something universities are pushing?
A: It's both. I see a lot of work that characterizes itself as research, and at the University of Illinois, that's really talked about. That makes sense to me. I was always intimidated by the art world as being mysterious, but I feel at home with research.
Q: I really like your work here at Figure One. Did you create all of it during your summer residency here?
A: The "Like Clocks" installation was all created here, but I'd been thinking about it a while. A couple of the other pieces I started earlier in the summer and finished here.
Q: What was it like to share the space with Jason Patterson?
A: It was a really good learning experience. I've shared other studio spaces with artists in the past but not the same space all the time. I learned things in his practice that will influence mine.
Q: The School of Art + Design this past year included you in its "10 (students) to Watch" list. How did you feel about that?
A: That was a really exciting opportunity because I was just starting to do installation work, so having a space (at Figure One) opened up a lot of possibilities. It was great: "Here's the space. Think of something to put in it." Awesome — now what am I going to make?
Q: Your undergraduate degree is in graphic design from Iowa State University, right?
A: I did both graphic design and studio art, so it took a little extra time.
Q: Is there a medium you prefer?
A: Really, I love drawing. But I love the challenge of learning new materials all the time that's come with installation work. I think my most satisfying medium to work with is colored pencil on paper.
Q: Is this an old radio that you used in this installation?
A: Yes. There's a little projector in back, so I'm projecting video clips from the back to the screen in front. They're clips from different films that reference clockwork in animals or mechanical animals.
Q: That's sort of the theme of your work here.
A: In this particular piece, I'm interested in the clockwork metaphor for animals that most people don't buy into but I feel is still prevalent.
Q: So Rene Descartes was the one who started this animal-as-machine thing?
A: He's the name that always gets mentioned when it gets brought up.
Q: I also wondered whether these are real tears in these glass bottles in this other piece.
A: No. A lot of parts of my work you can't tell whether they're found objects or something I made. I like that. Museums don't make up facts but make up objects.
Q: You received your master of fine arts degree in May. Did you specialize in anything?
A: I think technically it's painting and sculpture. They're so fluid with what they encourage you to do I feel it doesn't really matter, which is great.
Q: Now that you're done with school, what do you want to do?
A: I would like to teach at the university level. This year, I'm doing a bunch of different jobs and making work and trying to show work. I feel plenty busy, which is good. I'm glad I'm not jumping into a job and that I'm continuing the momentum of grad school, thinking and reading, and not having to start a job.
Editor's note: "Made in Champaign," featuring work by Lux and Patterson, will be on view through Oct. 13 at Figure One, 116 N. Walnut St., C. The exhibition space of the UI School of Art + Design is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.