Meet Artist-in-Residence
Leah Dyjak

March 23, 2017

Posted In: 2016 Artists in Residence, Blog

Where did you grow up?
Springfield, Mass. I was fortunate to find my way north to Northampton, Mass., when I was seventeen.

How did you find out about Anderson Ranch Arts Center?
Through my dear friend and mentor David Hilliard. He has been teaching photography here for years and always insisted I apply.

What are you working on during your residency?
Before I arrived, I made photographs of the eroding shoreline in Provincetown, Mass. An entire parking lot within the National Seashore collapsed into the sea. The asphalt appeared very soft, and the white lines of parking spaces were fragmented into sections. I am working on a series of photographs that pieces the parking lot back together with tape and paint. Additionally, I am working in clay to recreate some of the formations that are found in the way the asphalt has calved. I am fascinated that the power of water and wind can turn a heavy, impenetrable surface into a surface that appears soft and supple.

Has your residency at Anderson Ranch affected your practice at all? How so?
I have never had so much time to make work whenever I feel like it. My practice has found a spaciousness that has inspired me to be more playful with my work. In other words, I am able to take more risks, which allows for a more rigorous investigation of my materials and subject matter. There is an amazing amount of support here, so even when you make a small, potentially dumb move, the other residents are around to offer feedback instantly. I have had time to look back at my archive and see common threads in my practice. It has been incredibly generative to be able to examine the threads throughout my work.

How do you describe your artistic practice?
My practice is like a swinging pendulum. In one sense I feel tethered to making gorgeous traditional large format negatives with straight prints. The other side of that is my desire to blow it all up and make a mess. I am a kinesthetic, physical person, so I am drawn to three-dimensional output. I often work in clay and site specific installation. My photographs tend to walk this line between total chaos and strict order. That tension is necessary for me to be able to unpack complex problems. I impose fictional systems loosely based on scientific method to look at specific sites or materials.

What role does art play in your life?
Since I had any autonomy over my own life, I have never been without art. Being an artist is a way for me to resist the capitalistic structure and collect stories. Through my work, I am able travel and to deeply engage in place, understand histories and reimagine futures. I love meeting new people and exchanging stories. I am also a lifelong activist. My work is a way for me to contribute to positive social change through actions, object making and interventions.

When do you make art in your studio?
The studio and I have an erratic relationship. I am very sensitive to light so I tend to be in the studio on cloudy days and at night. The rest of the time I spend writing next to a big window. Being able to witness time passing with the movement of the sun activates my creative energy.

How do you spend your time when not working in the studio?
I am outside photographing, hiking or running. I teach yoga at the Ranch twice a week for all the residents and extended community. Our classes are incredible. We start when the sun begins to set and by the time we are finished, we are in the dark. There are huge windows in the meeting hall where we practice. One of my favorite things in the world is to go for a long drive into the mountains and find a place to photograph. I am drawn to unusual sites that have a vestige of energy or mining infrastructure.

What intrigues you in the art world today?
Not much actually. I think we have largely lost our way int the “art world.” Although, I am incredibly inspired by the insurgent visibility of queer people, women and people of color in the art world. I think the awareness of multi-culturalism is essential if we are going to move forward as an evolved, peaceful and global community. I think critical thinkers and artists have a big responsibility. I am interested in the alternatives that are springing up in response to elitist blue chip gallery culture. We are working it out through forming collectives, finding alternative spaces outside of the centers, and supporting each other. That is the kind of art world I am interested in and in which I am a part.

What art do you most identify with?
The work I most identify with is soulful and authentic. Specifically with work of Tara Donovan, or Katarina Grosse, or Dani Levinthal. The work of these artists does not require a formal education in art or in that of theory. They use universally recognized visual motifs and materials. I am most interested in work that is not exclusive and can appeal to a large audience.

What is your favorite part about Anderson Ranch?
My favorite thing about the Ranch is the freedom and support in my creative process. It has been wonderful to set my own schedule and daily routine. I love the huge windows in so many of the studios. I love being nestled in the middle of the Rockies with easy access to interesting geologic sites and active mines.

How can we find you on social media and the web?




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