Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Things Happen: An Interview with Lana Z. Caplan

Lana Z. Caplan, a Boston-based film/videomaker, photographer and installation artist, visited Chester College of New England this week as part of the Visiting Artist's Symposium Lecture Series. Caplan works with super8, found footage, video, interactive projections, and alterative processes photography in her pieces, which explore relationships, mortality and social issues.

Caplan grew up in a world of photography. When given her first Polaroid at the age of four, it was just a natural progression for a family that took regular snapshots. Although she never considered a career in art growing up, she attended numerous workshops and camps. It wasn’t until her undergraduate work in art history that she learned anyone can be an artist, if you work hard and make art.

When preparing for a new piece, Caplan said she starts with a concept and focuses on finding what the best ways to communicate that, be it through sketches or details within the environment or what works best with the site. Through her heavy use of Polaroids she can see what’s happening, and make decisions as she goes. Armed with research, her camera, and a willingness to experiment, she starts with an idea and keeps kicking it around until figuring out how to approach it.

Caplan’s varied portfolio includes pieces that are experienced, not just viewed. From her videos Love in the Afternoon, and The Waltz to her series on Sites of Public Execution, Caplan’s pieces cover a wide range of compositional interest. "I hope that my audience will give [the work] the time to try to understand, and to see the multiple layers and pieces that make it, as well as the collective meaning of the pieces put in the installation," she said.

Between exhibiting, studio time, researching and more, Caplan still finds time to visit many colleges as a traveling artist/lecturer. She said her biggest piece of advice is to work hard. "Nothing comes easy, so keep working at it," she said. "Take a good look at what came before you and the context of what you are doing, what you might be referencing and what others might be seeing when they view your work."

Caplan encourages young artists to look for inspiration everywhere. She has found it in the work of Pipilotti Rist and Andy Warhols' films. "We can all be inspired by something," she said. "Look at other artists and see what works or what doesn’t work for you and what you can take away from it to incorporate into your own work."

Even with inspiration, Caplan joked that a typical day in the studio consists of "cappuccino and email." On a more serious note, she did have one suggestion to beat procrastination. "On those days you are not in the studio, keep a running list of the things to do next time in the studio and options for those times you just don’t feel like 'it,'" she said.

When work is ready to be shown, Caplan suggested thinking broadly about exhibiting. "Create your own opportunities," she said. "Collaborate with other types artists and make your own events. Hire bands, invite friends, create your own scenes, work out the kinks. Don’t rely on the existing infrastructure --be prepared to show the establishment. By bringing people together things happen."

~Rhiannon Lombard

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