Issue 26

Issue 25

Issue 24

Issue 23

Issue 22

Issue 21

Issue 20

Issue 19

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon

Issue 18

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg

Issue 17

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

Issue 16

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden

Issue 15

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon

Issue 14

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon

Issue 13

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown

Issue 12

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan

Issue 11

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn

Issue 10

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum

Issue 9

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers

Issue 8

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth

Issue 7

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing

Issue 6

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)

Issue 5

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)

Issue 4

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)

Issue 3

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES

Issue 2

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen

Issue 1

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Distribution
Downtown
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Baert Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Château Shatto
GAVLAK
François Ghebaly
ICA LA
in lieu
JOAN
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Murmurs
Nicodim Gallery
Night Gallery
OOF Books
Over the Influence
Royale Projects
Sow & Tailor
The Box
Vielmetter Los Angeles
Wilding Cran Gallery
Boyle Heights/ Chinatown
Bel Ami
Charlie James
LACA
Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
Stanley's
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Eastside
BOZOMAG
Odd Ark LA
Marta
Smart Objects
Tyler Park Presents
Westside
18th Street Arts
Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis
Five Car Garage
L.A. Louver
Laband Art Gallery at LMU
Marshall Contemporary
Pasadena/ Glendale/ Valley
The Pit
Junior High
Mid-City
1301 PE
Anat Ebgi
as-is.la
Chris Sharp Gallery
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
David Kordansky Gallery
Hammer Museum
Hannah Hoffman
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
Kayne Griffin
Lowell Ryan Projects
Ochi Projects
O-Town House
Park View / Paul Soto
Praz-Delavallade
Real Pain
Shoot the Lobster
Simchowitz
the Landing
Thinkspace Projects
USC Fisher Museum of Art
Culver City
Anat Ebgi
Arcana Books
Blum & Poe
Philip Martin Gallery
Roberts Projects
The Wende Museum
Hollywood
Bridge Projects
Diane Rosenstein
Family Books
LACE
LAXART
M+B
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
Moskowitz Bayse
Nonaka-Hill
Shulamit Nazarian
STARS
Steve Turner
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The LODGE
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Non-L.A.
Best Practice (San Diego, CA)
Et al. (San Francisco, CA)
Left Field (Los Osos, CA)
McNally Jackson (New York, NY)
Minnesota Street Project (San Francisco, CA)
Printed Matter (New York, NY)
Santa Barbara City College (Santa Barbara, CA)
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Skowhegan, ME)
Verge Center for the Arts (Sacramento, CA)
Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco, CA)
Whitney Museum Shop (New York, NY)
Libraries/ Collections
Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
CalArts (Valencia, CA)
Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Research Library (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Marpha Foundation (Marpha, Nepal)
Maryland Institute College of Art, The Decker Library (Baltimore, MD)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (New York, NY)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Emerging Leaders of Arts (Santa Barbara, CA)
Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa, ID)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Scholes Library (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA)
Room Project (Detroit, MI)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John M. Flaxman Library (Chicago, IL)
Skowhegan Archives (New York, NY)
Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York, NY)
Telfair Museum (Savannah, GA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)
USC Fisher Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Interview with Maysha Mohamedi

L.A. based artist Maysha Mohamedi’s abstract paintings are flurries of colors, lines, and shapes imbued with energy, sensation, and meaningful intention. She often paints with her hands and talks about both visible and invisible marks that go into the making of her work. She discusses her process, her use of language, the movements and gestures that define her work, and how the making of abstraction can be a privilege. 

“It does feel like a privilege for a person of color to engage in creativity abstractly. It feels like a privilege to spend time thinking about our feelings and expressing them, and having emotions that are carried out in a visual way like that.” 
– Maysha Mohamedi

Host and Producer: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Engieneering: PJ Shahamat
Production assistance: Alitzah Oros
Theme music: Joel P West
Sponsored by: Paradise Framing and Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Maysha Mohamedi, Elizabeth Crisp and Lorelei Lemon (2021). Oil on Canvas, 15 x 17 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Parrasch Heijnen Gallery.

Maysha Mohamedi, In Defense of Secrets (2021). Oil on canvas, 88 x 99 inches. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Megan Cerminaro.

Maysha Mohamedi, Little Maysha and DocuSign (2021). Oil on canvas, 15 x 17 inches. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Megan Cerminaro.


Lindsay Preston Zappas: Hello and welcome to the Carla podcast. My name is Lindsay Preston Zappas and I’m the founder and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles. Carla is a quarterly magazine online journal and podcast committed to being an active source for critical dialogue surrounding L.A.’s art community. In this episode, I talk to L.A.-based painter Maysha Mohamedi. Maysha Mohamedi’s abstract paintings are flurries of colors, lines, and shapes imbued with energy sensation and meaningful intention. She often paints with her hands and talks about both visible and invisible marks that go into the making of her work. In our conversation, we discuss process, her use of language, the movements and gestures that define her work, and how the making of abstraction can be a privilege. 

Maysha Mohamedi: It does feel like a privilege for a person of color to engage in creativity abstractly. It feels like a privilege to spend time thinking about our feelings and expressing them and having motions that are carried out in a visual way like that. 

 LPZ: This is a packed episode, so stay with us. 

Advertisement: The Carla podcast is supported in part by Paradise Framing, making museum quality custom frames for artists, collectors, galleries, and institutions. Now offering paper conservation and german-made prefab frames for purchase and rental to accommodate all projects and budgets, all while meeting the highest conservation standards for the preservation of artworks on paper. Find out more at paradiseframingla.com & use coupon code CARLA for 10% off your first online order. The Carla podcast is also supported in part by Parrasch Heijnen. Currently on view at the gallery is Maya Stovall: “A something equals ex” through October 30, 2021. Upcoming will be Sylvia Snowden: A Survey, 1963 to 2020, opening November 13th. For more information find the gallery online at parraschheijnen.com. 

LPZ: Maysha Mohamedi was born in Los Angeles, but grew up in San Luis Obispo, California. 

MM: My dad opened a fried chicken restaurant. It was sort of like a different KFC. 

 LPZ: So when her dad opened up a chain of the restaurant in San Luis Obispo, the family moved. Maysha’s parents are both Iranian immigrants and she was definitely aware of that growing up in a small town.  

MM: I definitely felt it. And I think honestly it didn’t have the language to really talk about it until even a year ago with all the black lives matter language that just entered the mainstream. A lot of that language helped me put more of a story to what I had experienced. 

LPZ: Before she went into art-making, Maysha actually studied cognitive science. 

MM: I think that at that time, about 20 years ago was when this idea came out of technology interfacing with humans on a practical level and I ended up specializing in neuroscience because I liked the biology aspect of it a lot. 

LPZ: She even began a PhD program in neuroscience before quitting, when she finally felt that it wasn’t quite the right fit. 

MM: My experience was that when faced with something I absolutely did not like, the answer became clear. 

LPZ: As a kind of escape route from her life as a neuroscientist, Maysha went to Japan to work in a lab on a fellowship. And while she was there, she would sort of hide out and make paintings in her room at night, sort of trying out art making for the first time. When she came back to the U.S. she moved to the Bay Area and got an MFA in painting from California College of the Arts. Maysha’s an abstract painter and often paints with her hands. She’s really committed to the feel and energy embedded in every mark that she makes on the canvas and says that each mark should have this feeling of inevitability. But she’s equally committed to making space for pleasure in her studio and maintains a playful spirit in the work. In our conversation. We talk about her approach to process and language, mark-making, and intention. Later, she tells me about a project she did at the ICA LA, where she started a BIPOC abstract artist directory with L.A. Based abstract artists, Laura Owens and Lisa Diane Wedgworth. We talked through the project and what it means to be a BIPOC artist working in abstraction. And later, She shares how she almost became a police sketch artist. Stay tuned for that. And here’s my conversation with Maysha Mohamedi.  

MM: Touch is huge for me. I have felt like it’s not that remarkable that I use my hands. I’m still kind of perplexed when people bring it up because we all started out using our hands! 

LPZ: Yeah, I think specifically, there’s something about your work where it feels like it’s more than just like an implement, you know, it’s more than just a way to get the paint on the thing. It feels more deeply rooted in, in kind of like haptic energy or like, a deeper connection, but maybe that’s me reading into it. 

MM: That’s exactly what I would love somebody to feel from it. It started out because it feels good, right? It’s more direct. I knew that what I wanted to say was something I usually could not define in language. So the link between my brain, my hand, and the surface had to be as direct as possible. If I’m going to express something like that. And what you’re saying, it’s all about the echoes around that action. And there are so many touches I make on the surface that are not visible, but I believe and hope they are observable. 

LPZ: Expand on that, like touches of just like physically touching the material, but not necessarily mark-making on it? Like just kind of traces of your body? Sounds very dancerly. 

MM: It feels dancerly. And I’m a terrible dancer, but it’s something that moves through me at that moment. I previously would only touch if paint is, you know, getting moved from hand to surface. But now I touch when nothing becomes visible. So even like, this is kind of new actually, like in the last couple months, because now I paint consecutive days in a row and I’ve been doing that for months. So it’s really, this aspect is really built. So I just started a painting where I use a mechanical pencil at first. I always do that and make a lot of lines. And for the first time I noticed that I’m putting the mark down. But with the other hand, really brushing against the surface, like almost leading with the opposite hand that doesn’t have the pencil on it. 

LPZ: Okay. Let’s spell that out. Like brushing before the pencil comes down, almost like you’re kind of, you’re like paving, like you had to rake an area of dirt and then someone would walk across or something. 

MM: Exactly, but the hand is kind of rolling on the surface, but it’s interesting because I’m also a tennis player and my coach has me do something. My backhand is way better than my forehand. So I always struggle with my forehand. She has me, I’m right-handed so imagine the rackets in my right hand, and I’m on the court, she’s hitting a ball to me and I’m going to go for it. She has me stick out my left hand, cross my body fully extended, almost guiding that shot. So that left hand is in-between the rocket and the oncoming ball. I think from, to an outsider, it looks more like a guide, but what it actually is, it’s like a magnet. It’s magnetizing the path and I think that’s also what it’s like on the surface of the painting. So that opposite hand, that’s not holding the pencil, is kind of rolling forward and magnetizing the implement hand. 

LPZ: Okay, I feel like this is wild! The magnetizing the path. I feel like that’s very profound. This idea of like this psychic focus that precedes the thing. Wow. I feel like that’s really beautiful. 

MM: I’ve been interacting more with the surface in ways that don’t trace visibly. Which, It’s really exciting. 

LPZ: To me that has to do more with like clearing space for then the line to come in after like providing focus, but then are there other invisible moves or like invisible energy that you’re doing in the studio that are kind of private or that get you into like a certain headspace or like bodily connection with the work?  

MM:There are many! This is very related to my only childness, because from the time I could remember I had entertained myself in my own universe. So this is very natural to me to come up with elements of my own universe. But, my mom put me in a tight ponytail from the time I was a little kid, so that’s my kind of steady state hairstyle. So it’s pretty unusual to see me with my hair down unless I’m dressed up for something. But I really, really enjoy wearing my hair down when I’m making paintings and hair is really long. And it’s like, I just get really into it, like my hair is just down. It’s kind of on my face and on my shoulders. And sometimes even like catches on the surface of the painting and I just really like it, it feels so good. 

LPZ: Ah, it’s so interesting. And it’s like, because you don’t do it often, it’s like this special, it’s almost like, I feel like for a while in my studio, I had this crazy hat I would wear. You know, it’s like this thing that only happens in that space. And so it demarcates this thing. And also maybe signals like, okay, the rubber band is out. Like, this is like shaking it out. This is a free zone. Like we don’t need to. And also when you have your hair back, it’s like, you’re what exercising focus. Like, there’s a different kind of utility to that, that when the hair is down, it’s like– 

MM: When the hair is down, it’s like a whole other situation! 

LPZ: So, okay. I’m just struck with the connection of hair and paint brush too. Is that, but is that never crosses in? 

MM: I just thought of that two days ago and why have I not made a paintbrush out of my own hair? Why has this never occurred to me maybe because I don’t really use paint brushes. I mean, yeah. I might make one just as a commemorative object. It would be kind of fun to make that and hand it to someone. 

LPZ: I think. Yeah. That’s really beautiful. The hair as like this kind of dancerly early movement too. And thinking about that energy, slapping the canvas, and then you’re guiding your one arm as the other marks come in. So I read too that you said something like I have to be a hundred percent sure of a mark before I make it or something like that. So sometimes you’re just staring or like really thinking, but then what you’re describing sounds very like again, hair down, like kind of loose bodily, but then there’s this idea of like the mark needing to be the right one. So how do those two things get reconciled? 

MM: The individual who gave me well, Jeff Gibson, who’s an amazing artist. Are you familiar with his work? So he was a visiting artist when I was in grad school and he gave me some of the best guidance I’ve ever received. And I mean, he kind of looked me up and down and was able to immediately assess what’s important to me. So he’s the one who told me just after two meetings do not make a mark unless you absolutely have to. And that, that was completely accurate for me. So I would say even though they seem incongruent, because one is very kind of poetic and wistful and without boundary, I do have to make those marks. Right. And I guess it comes in, in a more analytical way, further down the process of the timeline of the painting when I spent a lot of time staring, those are the times where I have to be very careful and only act when I have to. I think in the beginning any mark will work, but it’s down the line when you’re so close to the painting being fully gelled, that one mark can have so much power steer, the entire feeling of that surface. 

MM: That’s where a lot of the waiting happens. 

LPZ: And then there’s also this kind of correctional mark that you do, which I think is so fascinating of that like canvas colored paint, where it’s almost like this invisible, like it’s just really, it’s striking me in this conversation of like invisible movements and every mark having meaning, but then you also paint with color paint that like almost disappears but it’s not raw canvas. Like it’s not an invisible line made with a finger with no paint, like it’s canvas colored paint. It’s like a very specific kind of invisibility, but I’m curious too, if that factors into this process you’re talking about of kind of mark-making redacting, if it’s almost like used almost like a whiteout or eraser to really focus the marks that are there and like really be diligent about those final ones, like you’re talking about. 

MM: That’s another one of those things, like the hand usage that I didn’t think was remarkable. I really just mix that color because I was making mistakes. 

MM: I never have put the expectation on myself to offer a pristine surface. So it wasn’t so important to me that these marks were hidden to me. That’s the more special aspect of it is that I’m not trying to cover anything completely. I want it to be semi visible that something was covered. Right. But I mixed that as a way to help myself because I could, I could tell that, for example, a shape needed to be changed on one side and it was, you know, really great color. The rest of the painting was wonderful. I’m not going to scrap it. So that’s where that came right out. And then now it’s just a fixture, but the problem now is I think, because I got better at painting, I’m not making as many mistakes. I like what that’s doing or like having that tool there. So I did start to use it as a way to fill in shapes. So kind of changed and I use it as a color now. 

LPZ: So let’s talk a little bit about that back and forth. Like you said, you start with this mechanical pencil and then your work also has these kinds of cutout shapes. I’m thinking of those as kind of like the primary layer, maybe that gets put down. And then you kind of come in later with these smaller marks, but you have these kind of like fields of color. I think I described them in this short piece. I wrote about your work as like, they’re specific, but also not like the abstraction is so confusing about that. Like, they feel like leftover shapes from something else that was cut out or something. And it’s just like a scrap piece. But maybe, I guess that might be jumping ahead a little, but thinking about those shapes and just maybe walking us through the process of flow of like how those shapes come in and maybe guide the marks that kind of flow in on top of that. And I guess if you want to tag team the other question of like, what are those shapes or where do those shapes come from? 

MM: They’re definitely the primary layer. So you’re right about that. When I first started making larger paintings, I was custom mixing my own gesso. So putting down these fields of color that covered the entire surface, like dark gray or some were kind of pinkier, for some reason I wanted to do that. I didn’t understand why, but I needed that kind of initial laying down of mark or just color to then– 

LPZ: Well, it’s also like the fear of the emptiness I feel, or like fear of the white page or, you know, I think having that like base something, a color to then just respond to. 

MM: The white is so bright, it’s too bright, bright, and it doesn’t need to be that way. So, I think it evolved from that because it’s still like your observation, that it is a primary layer upon which everything else is built. And I, I have made sculptures and I made a bunch of sculptures when I was pregnant with my first child just to do something different and not be interfacing with oil paint. And I would get this florist foam and use, actually, this is probably more toxic than oil paint now that I think about it but I wore a mask I think? It was a long time ago. 

LPZ: The kid’s okay everyone. 

MM: Yeah, he’s really smart. So, I made a bunch of these shapes and then would cover it with plaster and paint them. And I loved these shapes. And I think that’s the first time where I really recognized the evocative power of shapes and you know, being interested in abstraction that I knew was going to be an important element. And, well, I don’t know if I knew, but it’s ended up being an important element in what I do, because the way that those shapes layout initially really dictates the mood of the entire painting going forward. 

LPZ:So, we’ve talked about this kind of like 

MM: The magnetizing.  

LPZ: The magnetizing the path! Yes. So do you think about that as you are creating these shapes or like a same kind of focus or like a bodily record going into them? Or how do you think about the formation of those things? 

MM: I’ve been doing a lot of arcs in the last, I think for my solo show at Parrasch Heijnen there were a lot of arcs that to me are the most direct reflection of my body. 

LPZ: The length of the arm stretching, yeah. 

MM: So the arms stretching around, and that seems to be the most direct connection, the rest. I mean, and I’m not thinking while I’m doing this, but just if I go back and imagine myself making the paintings, if you took a video taken of me doing that, but that would be the most direct reflection of the body. But I think also the way I interface with the surface and my height and whether I’m sitting or reclining also dictates what’s happening, this is really tired the other day. And I knew I wanted to start a painting, so I just pushed the cot, flush up to the surface and I was like, what if I just make all the initial marks from this line down position? And it was really fun because obviously what happened is there are a lot of smaller, detailed motions in an area that I don’t usually work in. So that was really fun. 

LPZ: I’ve read that you get inspired from like a lot of things from your daily life and then those kind of filter into the paintings. Right. So I kind of want to talk about that and then how those get translated as marks or these kind of abstract shapes or what that connection is, or is it more, again like this embodying that memory or experience as you are creating your own path for these marks? 

MM: The way that it’s manifesting now, I mean, I’m working on five paintings right now at once. So it’s just kind of new for me, cause I used to just make one at a time and then move to the next one. So this is new and it’s really exciting. I’ve let go of a lot of, you know, the story behind the painting. I used to really lock into a story. 

LPZ: For each one as like, this is the time and– 

MM: This was like a sacred commitment between the two of us. I mean, it felt like I didn’t go into it, you know, saying those words or anything, but I really felt like I had to absorb the story on all levels in order to carry out a good painting. But I’ve recently stopped doing that. Like when I maybe even choose the colors I would consciously, I mean, I would go by what I was drawn to, but consciously think how does this combination of color relate to this experience? Or, I mean the most, the simplest, most generic example would be I’m in a bad mood, so let’s make a dark painting. I don’t think I’ve done that for a long time, but that’s what I’m talking about. I had to make it make sense for me. Like I felt like I would have to lay it out in a way that I could defend in my day in court. You know? 

LPZ: Is that like a lingering grad school thing or something where you have to have the defense ready of like everything? 

MM: I think it’s a grad school thing probably, but also I guess when you’re working in your studio and not a lot of people care about what you’re doing, there are different ways to help yourself be connected with some hopeful future. And I think that putting language around something I was doing that felt difficult to define gave me a sense of control and empowerment. Because it already sucks to make something that no one cares about, but then to make something that you can’t even talk about, it’s like why? you know, but now that I have more eyes on what I’m doing, I feel less pressure to define it. And it feels really, really good. I mean, that’s the freedom I’ve wanted all along. So now I’ve been more hooked into the titles actually. I’ve always loved making titles for my work, but they would come either in the middle of the painting or afterward. And it would echo the experience I was talking referencing in painting. But now I really start with that phrase. I have an ongoing list of titles that I keep and I kind of just pick one. 

LPZ: So the ongoing list comes from where? Again, is that like experiences or thoughts or how has that list been generated and like is it almost like writing poetry or? 

MM: It feels like poetry. Sometimes my kids say phrases like I think this is a Minecraft thing. Okay. People who are into Minecraft are probably gonna kill me because I don’t know if this is– 

LPZ: I have no idea. 

MM: Well, they were saying this phrase over and over again and cracking up and they were saying “never name a vindicator, Johnny”. 

MM: I don’t know what this means. So anyone out there who knows Minecraft is probably like, “you idiot, this means whatever,” and so I was like calling out from the bedroom, like who’s Johnny, what’s a vindicator. And they were cracking like never, never been Decatur Johnny. So I was kind of getting into the spirit of it. But when I joined they’re like, mom, like, no, don’t, you know, but, so I wrote that down as a title. I love it. So there’s so many titles. I mean, sometimes it’s just how I feel like I was feeling really insecure about something recently and this phrase just got tossed into my head, pathetic chick mode. I was like, God, like I can make like 10 paintings called pathetic. 

LPZ: One pathetic check mode, two. 

MM: Wow. All self-deprecating. So yeah, they usually pop into my head fully formed or pop out of somebody else’s mouth fully formed. And sometimes I read a phrase in a book, so I was just reading Sylvia Plath’s biography and the writer used this gorgeous line. She said “the atmospherics of depression”. And I was like, oh, that’s so good. 

LPZ: So Sylvia. 

MM: And I used that as a title. 

LPZ: Beautiful. Well, it’s interesting then how language has come in, maybe in place of these more concrete memories or more concrete reference points. And now it’s like the language, which is still very specific, like pathetic chick mode is a very like specific thing, but at the same time, it’s much more open, like maybe less tied to like a specific time and place in your life or maybe for you, like, you have the experience of the insecurity, whatever. But, I don’t know. You’re still using language now as this container for the thing. And choosing it ahead of time is really interesting because you’re then responding to the atmospherics of depression as, as you’re painting, 

MM: It feels like, you know, like in a carnival you have these different stalls for the games. It’s like each painting is a stall one where you have a water gun and the clown’s mouth is like a thin metal thing that you have to hit. It’s like, 

MM: Here’s my $5 turning the gun on. Now try to just like, that’s what it feels like. The title is the handing over the money and then it’s just go time.  

LPZ: Yeah. Right. Wait, I want to lean into that metaphor though. Like what’s the mouth, what’s the, the clown, because you’re always trying to chase this thing. You’re trying to then win within that. Like, I don’t know, I’m reading too far into it? 

MM: It’s actually–, that does make sense because it is an attempt to win within the rectangle and that’s actually all of, you know, computer programming is like that. It’s about finding the solution to a certain set of code to achieve whatever thing you’re trying to achieve. Like make a robot walk forward, whatever. It is a certain set of instructions that lead to the best solution, which is, could be categorized as a win. 

LPZ: Damn! And it’s so interesting to think about abstraction in those terms of this regimented set of moves. There’s like a start and finish. And like, a win because abstraction is so supremely open-ended, which I guess representation can be too, but I guess it’s, I guess if we could, how do you define those terms then of like the moves? You know, how do I want to describe it? I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t understand what abstraction is! 

MM: I understand what you’re saying! Because if you’re painting a figure, it’s obvious you need to paint the shadow of the nose a certain way to make it recognizable as a nose. You can delineate the stages in that process. Some people are better at making a nose than other people. So I get what you’re saying. It’s probably a mix of being able to define in words what I’m doing. For example, I tend to like a certain amount of action on the surface. So that would be a certain amount of marks. So there are these kinds of quantifiable elements, but then there’s just, there are things that are indefinable or maybe I don’t want to work so hard to define them because the dominant force behind what I’m doing needs to be a feeling of inevitability toward that end. And the thing I just want to say about the inevitability is it’s a very precious force, so it can be disrupted so easily. So I always try to keep myself just the right amount of unaware to keep that momentum going. When I did the ICA symposium, there was something about that I wanted to get at. It does feel like a privilege for a person of color to engage in creativity, abstractly and I would stand by that. It feels like a privilege to spend time thinking about our feelings and expressing them and having emotions that are carried out in a visual way like that. 

Advertisement: Hey podcast listeners. Did you know that in addition to this podcast, Carla is a quarterly magazine. You can get our current issue which features critical essays on Arnold Kemp, community art, an interview with CAAM curator Taylor Renee Aldrige, and reviews on recent LA exhibitions. The magazine can be found in LA at about 100 galleries where you can pick up a free copy, or you can order a 1-year subscription at shop.contemporaryartreview.la and let us ship Carla right to your door. Subscriptions also help us sustain our magazine and podcast, so it’s a great way to support what we do. Podcast listeners can use the offer code PODCAST for free shipping on your one-year subscription. So head on over to the shop and order one now. 

Advertisement: Are you a gallery, fabrication shop, or museum looking to hire quality creative candidates in LA? Look no further than the Carla Job Board. We are getting great feedback from employers that have used our job board to hire excellent candidates that are smart, engaged, and educated about the LA art world. Employers can use the offer code PODCAST to receive 50% off their first listing. If you have an opportunity like a grant or residency, you can post for FREE. And, if you’re looking for a job in the arts, be sure to check out the job board and help us connect you to your next employer. Check it out at contemporaryartreview.la/jobs.  

LPZ: I feel like a lot of what I see happening in the art world is like we expect work from people of color to represent trauma, right? Or like to represent their experience. Like they have to be the bards of their own experience. And so like I love the conversation around abstraction in that way as like this rejection. But I think privilege is an interesting word too. What do you mean by that? 

MM: Well, the privilege to not have to look at and experience your world through the framework of your identity. I think I feel like I’ve gotten there but it’s hard. That’s not the default framework at all. 

LPZ: Also it evades. I mean, of course we’re going to be putting like Stanley Whitney’s biography onto his work. But I feel like in a way it’s like an abstract painting, easier evades biography. Like you don’t have to look at it and be like, I mean, so often now with figuration and certain work, it’s kind of more clear the identity or biography of the artist or work that’s overtly narrative or overtly political. But I feel like with abstraction, you don’t really need to know. And I mean, I think that’s another conversation that I find really interesting. Like how intensely should we be looking into an artist’s biography when understanding their work? And where does it hinder the work? 

MM: I’m really attracted to this idea that the work could really stand on its own. So I think exactly what you’re saying is probably why I’m attracted to abstraction because it’s a fun challenge. It’s not my absolute end goal with every painting. And I don’t even consciously think of this, but it’s a fun challenge to make work that could look like it was made by anyone. That’s cool. That’s a really cool challenge. 

LPZ: And is that something you bring into the studio like into your hair down space or like, I could be anywhere? 

MM: I’m really failing at the feminine part, because I do think my paintings look like they’re made by women. 

LPZ: No, I mean, not necessarily. Oh boy. I don’t know. That’s a whole, what makes a painting feel feminine? You know? Like, is it color? Is it whimsy? 

MM: I think that my work looks like it’s made by a girl.  

LPZ: Like how though? 

MM: Like what, it’s just pretty, I think it’s, I think it has a prettiness, even though there’s some, I mean, this, we could go into the line work, but there’s, jaggedness there’s darkness for sure. But there’s a bow at the end, I can’t help it. Maybe at some point I’ll grow out of that bow, but there’s a bow at the end. 

LPZ: But it’s also, I think, I don’t know, bringing the paintings to like this level of completion, like you’re talking about where like the bow, the bow could also just be those final touches. I don’t know. They feel like they’re kind of perfectly composed and resolved in a certain way. So like, thinking about the bow is that, which doesn’t necessarily feel gendered to me. 

MM: But that’s an ultimate freedom to make work that doesn’t feel connected to my identity. And so I think when I thought of this idea, like who are other artists of color who are going down this path, you know, it’s a very specific commitment to self and it was really a cool experience.  

LPZ: So with the ICA project, was it more of like a personal quest to kind of find a lineage or find other people who are working in this way? Or is it more of  a visibility issue, you know, of being like, hey look, like all of these artists are making abstraction, like look at the kind of quantity. 

MM: The story behind that is about a year ago. So last summer, a little over a year ago. I think. So if you remember that was maybe like four or five months into the pandemic. I think we all got over the initial shock and then I was like, oh, this is real. My life is going to be different for a long time. And you know, for me there was some extra stress because I have two young children, like where do they go? I mean, it was very stressful for parents. 

 LPZ: And how old are your kids? 

MM: Now, they are five and eight. 

LPZ: Gosh, That’s a tough pandemic age. 

MM: So, it was difficult. And I think I was feeling pretty depressed. I was feeling kind of depressed, even though I had a lot of action around my career and I was making shows that was all kind of ticking boxes, but this uncertainty of like, how long are we going to be living this? Oh my God. We’re like a year later. And we’re just figuring it out. I guess. I dunno. It’s kind of weird, so weird. But–

LPZ: As we’re talking like 20 feet, we’re at this giant table, like talking socially distance from each.  

MM: Yeah. We should mention that this is your first in-person podcast. 

LPZ: I know! 

MM: In a year and a half? or two years? 

LPZ: I know! It’s a big deal. 

MM: So the story is I started to feel kind of depressed and I was unsatisfied with my shows because I was starting to have the shows I’ve always wanted and I couldn’t go to the opening. There were no openings! And so that was, I felt like, kind of indulgently sad. 

LPZ: I mean, that was really sad. It was like going to meet an artist that they’re opening and you’re the only one, you know, one at a time and yeah. 

MM: I was starting to get bored too. I mean, I’m the type of person I need a lot of action. I’m not saying I need to busy myself with bullshit, but I just need a lot of puzzles and riddles and things to sink my teeth into, to move forward and stay engaged. And I was getting very, very bored, like extremely bored. So I was getting bored and I was like, oh my God, like things are finally going my way, but I’m kind of bored and I need more of a challenge. So I’ve always had this fantasy of being a police sketch artist. 

LPZ: Wait, what?  

MM: I’ve been very interested in this for a long time. And after I had my first child up in San Francisco, I remember I was eating at some restaurant and these cops were at the table next to me. And I was like, this is my chance to ask, how is this done? And they were like, well, you have to actually go through the FBI. Like that’s the official training. Like anyone we use who’s a police sketch artist goes to Virginia, does the training, like you have to be an FBI agent who then gets permission to pursue that. I was really shocked. And I was like, well, I’m not, I mean, at that time I was 32. I wasn’t that old, but I was like, okay, there’s no way I’m going to restructure everything, leave this baby and go become like, FBI. 

LPZ: I absolutely love that. 

MM: So I had had that experience and it never kind of went away. And then, during the pandemic I was getting bored. I was like, maybe I should look into this again. Maybe things have changed. So long story short, the lead detective who is also trained to be a sketch artist, we had a couple phone conversations and he was so interested in what I do. And I was so interested in what he does. And he gave me the whole breakdown of what’s involved. And at that point I was still really interested because I have a background in figure drawing. So this sounded really fun for me. But then the whole psychology aspect of interfacing with victims, I was not sure about at all. So that piece I was not sure about, but he told me that I can get a certification. 

MM: There’s a course. I don’t have to go through the FBI. So then I had a couple of conversations with the people who run that course. And I was like this close to pulling the trigger. Not like I was going to change careers, but it would have been just something I could, like, I knew my brain needed exercise. Like my brain was atrophying in this weird new world. So then I talked to my friend again, my artist friend, Maureen St. Vincent. And she’s like, uh, I don’t think this is a good idea. And she was like, why don’t you curate a show? And I was like, I don’t want to curate a show. I’m not into that. I’m an artist, just not into that. And she’s like, please don’t become a police sketch artist. Like don’t throw your life away. So then around the same time I saw that the ICA LA had put out open call for projects and– 

LPZ: I love it that this is the story of how you submitted a proposal. 

MM: That was also overlapping with, you know, all the Black Lives Matter stuff that was coming up. And I did have this earnest question, like who else is like me? Because I couldn’t really think of many. Anyways it unfolded Lisa Diane Wedgworth, who’s an L.A. artist, she’s an abstract artist and also Laura Owens who have a friendship with, she has a lot of investment in this topic. We did that as a team. So we put the workshop together. It was invite only a lot of great people from the community came, Rebecca Morris, a lot of people who have ties to academic jobs. And we basically created this database and it’s still evolving, there’s more work to do, but I know already it’s been used to restructure curriculums. Like I know Rebecca Morris, she utilized it with her colleagues at UCLA and yeah, it’s still kind of in the baby stages. But it was a cool thing. 

LPZ: So it’s more of like a broad archive, not necessarily contemporary, like it’s like looking back. 

MM: Yeah. We do have a formal, there’s a form online. Anyone could submit suggestions. But like I said, it’s still in its early stages. There’s more that could be done with it to make it more interactive. But that’s, you know, for the future. 

LPZ: That’s so exciting. It’s really, really cool. And I love the idea of thinking about, those ripple effects of how it could start to change curriculum, start to affect the way we talk about legacies and histories and start to alter those. Like, no look, you like these people were here too. They were part of the conversation that time. We just don’t tell their stories or they, they’re not historicized in the same way. 

MM: And there is so much vitality there, there are other worlds entirely that I didn’t even know about that I still don’t know about. It’s shocking actually. 

LPZ: Has it helped you like learning about some of that and like you said, I love that idea of like other worlds. Like, has it helped you clarify anything about your own kind of like specific other world that you’re building and like the space that you’re creating paintings within or the voice you’re creating for yourself with your work? 

MM: It probably was empowering for me on some levels because I saw people pursue what they wanted to do without any attention. Often these people didn’t get attention ever or just late in their life and they did it anyways. So I think– 

LPZ: And over the span of decades, decades, lifetimes. 

MM: So that was really encouraging for me, because I think, well, this isn’t, I don’t know if this framework applies to every artist, but there’s probably a point in every artist’s life where they really, really make the decision. You know, like when I was 24, I wanted to be a painter that lasted for a while. But I think it’s only recently that I truly made that decision right. 

LPZ: Where it’s like, okay, like, let’s go, we’re doing this. 

MM: Like, no matter what happened, I knew I was going to do it. So seeing these people have these full lives with a commitment to their art is very empowering for me.  

LPZ: I think the idea of thinking about a career as like a long thing, you know, and as like you are having like really exciting successes and shows right now, but then thinking like kind of projecting forward to career that it could like ebb and flow. And, but also thinking about how like family and children, and that’s like another story that gets historicized in shitty ways and that’s of course changing, you know, like I’m so glad that those narratives are changing, but yeah, thinking about how like life and time and longness of one’s career can fit in with this moment that you’re in of like actual movement happening, you know? And, but then thinking about, I guess the span of kind of where it could go and what that could look like. 

MM: I think for me, I have this kind of strange polarity where at the same time I exist with this deep uncompromising commitment, but then at the same time, I always allow myself the strategy of quitting at any moment. It’s like I have, I have to be able to have both of those in my heart to do what I’m doing, because if I’m too locked in to one direction or one side or the other, it really makes me feel weighed down in regards to your comment about the longevity, that’s the only way I can survive through decades with this, I think is to always know that I can leave at any moment if I wanted to. 

LPZ: Because then it makes the showing up like a daily decision 

MM: Daily decision and actually like a daily pleasure. 

LPZ: Yeah. Pleasure. That’s an interesting word too, in the context of like building a career around art-making where sometimes it I’m sure like feels a little bit like a slog or like, has it like shift your relationship to pleasure in the studio or does that feel like something that you’re more defiant about carving out, maybe because as like more pressures are coming at you? 

MM: The pleasure stands and the pleasure builds in regards to the actual making. I am in my happiest place when I’m doing that, even when it’s physically demanding or frustrating or whatever, I love being there. But the part that is difficult for me is the psychological and emotional aspect of it. And there are different categories. That first difficulty falls into being disconnected from my children. Maybe because I’m spending a lot of time in the studio right now that this endeavor is not just being witnessed by me alone. That transition has been really difficult for me in certain ways, because I give ownership of this work over to my viewer from the instant I start making it right because of that. And yeah, I think I’m still processing that, it’s difficult. 

LPZ: Like the disconnect from the making and the viewing? 

MM: It used to be that this work, I would make it and not have as much certainty that it would leave my universe. It could be in my studio. So it’s very different, knock on wood, to have that momentum now where it feels like I won’t ever see that painting again. It’s really different. Just kind of on an energetic level to have other bodies, other minds, other hearts intersecting with something I’ve made with my own hands is not trivial. That’s not a trivial change in what I’m doing. 

LPZ: And it is part of it you then also being severed from those things or less so? It’s more of just like the proximity of others to this, and we were talking about this like psychic energy, this invisible energy that you put into everything that you make. And now that transference is happening now to other people. 

MM: The transference is happening. I would say I would give it a more generous framework, for example, you know, people always say after they have one child, can I love another one just as much, you know? And then you have that child and you can’t even imagine that human being not existing. It’s like that. It’s just more love but it’s energetically. I find myself to be overly porous in certain situations because of this, because I’m just not used to interfacing with all that energy all the time. 

LPZ: So by overly porous, you mean like in up other people’s energy around the work or, or being too, I mean, the making of your work is like such an emotional intimate thing. And then the exposure of that to others. 

MM: I don’t know, but I’ll just give you an example because Lena Larson is here filming this podcast right now. She’s making a documentary about me. She traveled to New York with me two weeks ago. I had a joint presentation with John Wesley at the independent art fair with Parrasch Heijnen. I was riddled with anxiety. There were a lot of other issues, like I had not been on a plane in two years, or I didn’t know what to wear. There were other issues, but there was something deeper that was causing me so much anxiety. I probably gave her the worst footage ever for 24 hours when I was tearing my hair out. 

LPZ: She’s like this is documentary gold! Anxiety of the artist! 

MM: I’m not usually like that. And I remember like, the Independent is awesome, but I mean, it’s not like I was going to my major museum solo show, you know, it wasn’t that level. But I was like almost in tears that morning. Like I was just repeating to myself, like, you’re just a body, you’re just a body. You’re just dust. You’re not that important. Like, I mean, you would think I was going off to war or something. But that’s how it’s manifesting for me. It’s an undercurrent of anxiety. 

LPZ: And that has to do with the visibility of the thing? 

MM: Maybe, maybe. I think I haven’t processed it completely. 

LPZ: Well, yeah. Art fairs. I mean, that’s a whole other thing it’s like not really for the artist. Right. It’s like, it’s like you’re entering into this whole other world of like commerce and they can feel kind of gross to like being in that environment. That’s true.  

LPZ: I want to talk more about that idea of pleasure too. And how you maintain that in the studio. Now that more visibility is happening around the work and like there’s more eyes, there’s more energy. There’s like this other stuff coming in, right. That I’m sure it feels less isolating or does it have to do with, again, like you said, the privilege of making art, the privilege of being an artist, like you had this whole other career previously, right? That you kind of side stepped or stepped away from to kind of dive into this passion. 

MM:I can’t do this unless I’m completely engaged with what I’m doing. So I have to have fun and I’m very motivated by pleasure. So I have to feel like I am doing something gooey, something totally athletic, something immersive, something that’s giving me a lot of joy. Otherwise I have no motivation to do it so I think that’s where the pleasure comes in. And even though there are more eyes on my work, I think I’ve gone pretty far in the direction of becoming even more isolated, maybe as a reaction to that. I don’t know. But mainly it started out because I wanted to stay as focused as possible and keep, I was so excited by what I was doing. I wanted to keep it going. So not that many people actually enter my studio, I don’t have that many visits. So it does feel like this space where I can keep the pleasure going and it is a privilege. And regardless of my mood, I’m thinking of my husband now listening to this being like, you are not going to have all the time, regardless of my mood, I would say, I feel very locked in to the privilege aspect. I’m thankful everyday that I get to do this. I don’t think I take it for granted. 

LPZ: Do you let your kids in your studio or is it like a private, like, is it like nobody comes in? 

MM: My kids definitely come into my studio. I mean they’re in school all day. They’re not really there, but I occasionally will bring them on the weekend. And I like having them there. They give me a lot of comfort and these children were meant to be my children because they just understand me. They probably understand me more than anybody else. And they want me to triumph and they’re just like, I mean, they’re boys, they’re not that emotionally expressive in a cheerleading way. That’s not what I’m saying, but my win is totally their win and they’re totally on board. 

LPZ: I am obsessed with that, that’s so, so sweet. And do you feel like they read your paint? Like, you know, we’re talking about this abstraction, this emotion that goes into the work, do you feel like they legibly read it? Do you know what I mean? And you’re talking about this kind of unspoken connection. 

 MM: The older one has a very analytical mind. He’s a very confident speaker. He’s eight, almost nine. He is completely able to stand in front of my painting and explain it, what he thinks it is, and whether it’s a good painting or not, or what the strengths are. 

LPZ: “This is not a win”. 

MM: Okay, he’s never said that, but he knows what the strengths are and he’ll kind of like interpret symbolism in the colors, but it’s more about his attraction to kind of being an orator, like loves the opportunity to speak up 

LPZ: Like, on a topic and have others listen. 

MM: Yeah, and I think he understands that it’s pretty unique that he has this visual language. I think he’s starting to understand that most kids are not exposed to that. The little one, however, is very connected with me on a more experiential level. So he will be the one who comes and stands next to me while I’m working and says, I just want to watch and the older one doesn’t really do that. And I can just see on his face that he’s taking it in in a different way. So that’s been really cool. 

LPZ: That’s so interesting. Just watching the moves and then the other, one’s like kind of analyzing the moves, that’s really cool. Well, it’s interesting thinking of this idea of visibility, isolation audience, but you kind of have this baked in audience with those two. It sounds like as you’re making, there’s always going to be that kind of feedback with them. And I don’t know, it sounds kind of refreshing. Like it’s not totally in isolation. It can almost be this means of communication with them.  

MM: It’s true. I mean, I do, they don’t come to my studio very often but when they do, you’re right, it’s baked and it’s the default that we’re connected in that way and same with my husband. 

LPZ: Yeah. I love that. Thank you so much. This has been wonderful. 

MM: That was so great. Thank you so much Lindsay. 

LPZ: Yay! 

Advertisement: The Carla Podcast is produced by Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles and me, Lindsay Preston Zappas with production assistance from PJ Shahamat. Joel P West composed our theme music. The podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. We archive and post every episode along with episode transcripts on our website at contemporaryartreview.la. If you’re a regular listener, head over to iTunes to rate and leave us a review the podcast. 

​​