Lucien Shapiro is one of the fantastic artists Empty Kingdom is bringing to Select Art Fair. His masks may cover the face but they provide a deeper window into what is behind. His work is self-reflection, a commentary and force for the importance of creating things by hand and the value imperfection can imbue such objects with. Read his interview:
Please introduce yourself, where are you from?
Currently residing in San Francisco, CA.
What attracted you to mixed media?
Creating objects from recognizable groupings of other objects. I am a natural born collector.
What of yourself do you see in your work?
My work is all about creating extensions of myself. Each piece is a healing or questioning of what it is that I want to become in this life.
Where do you find the materials you use for your pieces?
Bars, and friends save me bottle caps, and I also collect them from people while I am out and about on the town. They call me the raccoon because I always have my eyes peeled for glimmering gems of trash. I also spend time in flea markets, salvage yards, antique shops, and railroad tracks.
Do you think mixed media is unique in the way that the building blocks are appropriated? That it can be made out of found material?
The way that I work is like a constant building block, there is never a plan, and I constantly add and take away letting each piece form through my subconscious. I think every artist has a goal to experience creation in a unique way. We all see the world in our own way and as artist’s the tools and materials we use shape our practices.
Can you tell us about the mask you’re sending to Select Art Fair? Where did you get the knives for the piece? What is their significance in the piece? What is does the piece mean to you?
This piece is actually only one part to a mating ritual; the “Holding Internal Martyr “ mask has the initials, which spell HIM. This mask was the male form in the pair, which in turn represents me. The knives were found at a flea market, aged and rusted, the three knives represent the 3 major relationships that have been cut free in my search for a partner to cut through life with. This piece represents a ritual for companionship.
Many of your pieces are masks, what do masks mean to you?
We all wear masks, whether we intend to put them on or not, I create masks to reveal the truth and ask the question, what do we want and need? Who are we hiding from? Who are we?
Masks hold a great deal of importance for many cultures, what are some cultures you’re specifically influenced by?
I try to learn about as many cultures as possible. I don’t believe there is one specific one that I hold onto anymore then the rest. I want to celebrate all cultures and acknowledges that my influences relate to every single thing I have learned and been exposed to during my time in this life.
What do they mean in current culture? They’ve lost ritual significance but they now cover our superheroes, as well as our villains, how do you think the perception and use of masks has changed over time?
I don’t believe that in this day and age we have lost ritual significance at all, research proves that many cultures still celebrate the act of performing rituals for many different reasons. Yes we are growing up in an age where the common influence of masks are super heroes and villains, but it doesn’t stop there we still use masks all over the world to call upon higher powers and reach for answers through the cultures we embrace.
What are some of your favorite masks? Do you do background research? Do you imagine background and significance, beyond the inherent of course, for your masks?
All my masks are made to help overcome, cleanse, intoxicate, or try and create change for things I want in my life. They are a personal search for happiness.
Your sculpture series is called ‘Urban Obsessions’, what do you think our cultural is currently obsessed with? Social media and Internet culture are forces both for and against anonymity, are there other ways we seek anonymity as a culture? Do you think anonymity is necessary to current society?
My series Urban Obsessions is about my personal obsessions with multiples and showing that in this social media haze of instant everything there still is a time for hand made creation. I want people to slow down and realize what patience and persistence it takes to create my works, each imperfection creates purpose. I don’t think anonymity is at all a part of my work, each mask represents a piece of myself and answers questions I am sure we have all had at least once in this lifetime.
How are your single pieces different from your larger installations? How do you approach the curation of an installation differently from a single piece?
I believe each piece is made for a larger whole. I would hope that ultimately all my work fuses together to create its own world in different stages of an ongoing quest. The installations always are intended to relate to the smaller individual work I am creating.
What does the chance to show at Art Basel mean to you? Are you ever nervous showing your work? Arts pour themselves into their work, in many ways it is a reflection of themselves, do you feel like your pieces expose yourself?
I’m excited to show during Art Basel, my art always questions what I want from life, each piece completed reveals more of myself and who I am trying to become.
What is your favorite natural environment? Woods? Desert?