Meet Artist-in-Residence
Liza Mitrofanova

Where did you grow up?
I spent my early childhood in a part of Novosibirisk, Russia, called Akadem Gorodok. My family immigrated to the United States when I was still in elementary school, and I lived in Des Moines, Iowa, until I was eighteen.

 

How did you find out about Anderson Ranch Arts Center?
I heard about the Ranch through my professors when I was a ceramics student at Marlboro College. As someone working with clay in a contemporary art context, Anderson Ranch seemed to fit my interests by providing a setting in which craft and contemporary art are inseparable.

 

What are you working on during your residency?
This residency is allowing me to delve into a full-time making routine for the first time. I find myself facing challenges with creative blocks and redefining how I want to move through the world as an artist and where to place myself in the world of ceramics. A recurring theme in my work is one of states of flux and in-betweens, informed by bicultural identity. Some of what I have begun making work about is the present moment, as a horizon from which the future is uncertain and the past a reconstructed narrative, neither one being truly accessible in the present moment. Incremental processes, whether captured in surfaces made through the freezing and drying of clay, or in the actions I take in my studio through repetitive actions like weaving, are another tail I find myself chasing. Some of my projects have placed me in the woodshop, and I am eagerly learning my way around this medium and some tools of the trade.

 

Has your residency at Anderson Ranch affected your practice at all? How so?
I think that this is mostly a matter of access. There are few settings outside of universities and craft schools where fully functional studios in such a large variety of media are available. The ability to focus most of my energy on artistic creation has made me realize how much thought and data collection I require before I can really sit down and make work in the studio, that having the time and space to create does not mean that creative work will spill out of me unfettered. I am having to think more about how to take my work outside of the studio context, too. When my studio was tiny or non-existent, making installations or site-specific works was an almost necessity and now it is a step out of the comfort zone of my studio.

 

How do you describe your artistic practice?
I consider myself successful when I create a piece that either on a small or large scale brings awareness of surroundings to a viewer. That can be in the form of an unconventional way to handle a cup or a perceived change in temperature in a room. In a way, I hope to remind viewers to pay attention to the world around them and create an empathetic space accessed through the senses.

In terms of the creative process, mine is messy. I begin by wandering and getting lost. It’s not a light-hearted kind of getting lost, it’s a deeply anxious, “Where am I trying to get to, and why aren’t I on the right path?” kind of affair. I make objects I have trouble justifying, I read books that seem disconnected, and I try to process it all through writing. At some point, mid-conversation or mid-run or as I fall asleep, somethings clicks. I have no control over how and when this happens, but usually there’s a point when I receive a little message in a bottle from my subconscious. This message has traveled far and wide, but finally I can look down on the terrain from above, get a sense of where I am headed, and make conscious decisions about how to get there. Sometimes the message never arrives, and I take a more deductive approach afforded by a background in biology. I will ask a question (sometimes and arbitrary one), design ways to test outcomes, carry out those steps, and hope that my subconscious will eventually emerge from its murky depths for a brief moment of clarity.

 

What role does art play in your life?
Art is a way to explore human experience and engage in conversation. It is a way for me to explore my own identity and experiences and place them in a broader context of history and the contemporary cultural experience. I hope to make art my career either in an academic or social justice context.

 

When do you make art in your studio?
It depends, but basically all day with many breaks for food, exercise, phone calls, or mundane necessities of modern life peppered in.

 

How do you spend your time when not working in the studio?
I stay sane by exercising outdoors and taking time to embody a sort of emptiness. In the winter, I cross-country ski and when the snow melts I run and rock-climb. Cooking and reading are also necessities. Many of these activities require or are much improved by the presence of humans I like.

 

What intrigues you in the art world today?
The intersectionality. Few up-and-coming artists are strictly single-medium artists. It is exciting that though we are still called “visual” artists, there is a greater emphasis on tactility, sound and other senses. There is also an overarching sense of social responsibility and rebellion, encompassed in the intersection between makers, punks, back-to-the-landers, and activists.

 

What art do you most identify with?
Installation art, participatory art, and various forms of unsanctioned art. Ann Hamilton is one of my biggest inspirations. I also have a deep respect and love for guerilla artists, though I am far from being one myself. Whether they are quietly planting gardens in abandoned lots, writing pixação on sky-scrapers, placing or subverting public signage, knit-bombing all public surfaces, these artists question authority and make visible marginalized peoples and spaces.

 

What is your favorite part about Anderson Ranch?
The cafeteria. That is mostly a joke, but I do think that if you could peek into the Ranch during dinner you would understand what I mean. Sure, the food is outstanding, but what I’m really talking about is the sense of community. The staff and the group of residents that I am here with are generous, engaging, caring, sweet, and playful people. I find myself in a special place, at special time, with special people.

 

How can we find you on social media and the web?
www.lizamitrofanova.weebly.com
Instagram: @Liza_Ceramics

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