Linda Lyke: I Believe in the Power of Art and Music to Uplift the World
By Sheli Silverio
In continuing our series of interviews with artists who work and exhibit with Center For The Arts Eagle Rock (CFAER), we spoke with master printmaker and Professor of Art at Occidental College, Linda Lyke. Linda’s practice is no stranger to disruption and disaster, she is particularly interested in responding to climate change in her printmaking. One of the pieces from her Destructive Beauty Series was the inspiration for CFAER’s upcoming exhibition, World on Fire, which is a group show juried by Phumelele Tshabalala focusing on fire, its aftermath, and its larger implications for our planet. Printmakers from the Los Angeles Printmaking Society respond to fire using materials left in its aftermath such as ash, burned objects and wood residue. The exhibition was set to open this month at CFAER, but is now yet another displaced exhibition in the socially isolated Los Angeles Art World. However, CFAER’s mission to provide local, innovative, and accessible arts programming is continuing online with tutorials on Instagram and Zoom workshops and World on Fire will be rescheduled!
Who are you? What do you do? I am a female artist based in Los Angeles. I live on a hillside in Mount Washington with my husband, chickens, cats, and a plethora of wild animals, who like to visit — raccoons, opossums, hummingbirds,owls, and coyotes. I attended Kent State University, in Ohio, where I received my MFA in printmaking. I moved to California forty years ago to teach studio art, primarily printmaking at Occidental College. I’ve been a practicing mixed media artist/printmaker throughout my life. Highlights during my career include exhibiting in over 90 National Print Exhibitions and 21 solo exhibitions. My most recent exhibit: Field Notes, When Taxonomy Becomes Iconography, opened this summer at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center. This show was inspired by my recent travel to Kenya to research wildlife, which was partly funded with the help of a MacArthur Grant from Occidental College. My daughters, Ghia and Grainne, traveled with me to Kenya and were as thrilled and passionate about seeing the Megafauna as I was. Throughout my career, I’ve been concerned with saving biodiversity on earth and working toward reducing climate change. I often use ink and solvent to achieve surprising, accidental effects that help guide my process of discovery. My direction and voice as an artist is focused on creating meaning by analyzing the conditions of the natural world and the human interventions to both save and destroy it.
How did you first become involved with or aware of CFAER? I have donated artwork to CFAER for the past fifteen years and joined the Board about ten years ago. I believe the center is a significant venue for art and music in Eagle Rock and the greater LA area. I became more active as I got to know the hard work and commitment of Director Melinda Ann Farrell. I want the public to know more about the children’s educational and artistic programs. Through taking after-school classes at the center, engaged students are exploring their creativity in art, music, dance, writing, and printmaking.
Do you have a favorite story involving your time with CFAER that you’d like to share? I was the gallery director at Occidental College for ten years and know firsthand how difficult it can be. I think the center is producing excellent exhibitions that showcase a wide diversity of voices and practices. These shows would not be possible without the help of grants from the Pasadena Art Alliance. One of the best exhibits I saw at CFAER recently was called Kin. The show was the brainchild of Ming Ong and three artists she went to school with at Art Center. Beyond showcasing these artists’ work, the show also featured a handmade kitchen table with a leg carved by each artist. The opening night of the show was a potluck where attendees were invited to bring a dish to share! This show worked on so many levels for me as a woman, mother, and feminist artist. I loved it!
Do you have any current or upcoming projects with CFAER? If so please tell us about it. I am now engaged in a new CFAER show, World on Fire, that addresses the issues of climate change. This show is juried by Phumelele Tshabalala, a young member of Los Angeles Printmaker’s Society. The show will include new work by selected artists from LAPS and feels very prescient in light of recent California wildfires and the Australian bush fires.
Anything else that you feel moved to tell us? One of the most formative moments of my life was attending and teaching at Kent State University. I was in the art department with the men of Devo. Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh were the most amazing artists. I was also a part of the Kent State community on May 4, 1970 when the National Guard shot 20 students, killing 4 of them. In the aftermath of the shootings, the art department received art and letters from people around the world. These documents are now housed alongside the stories of the students who died and studies on how this terrible event happened in special collections at the Kent State Library. It was a powerful lesson for me about how art can help people express their emotions and try to affect change in the world. As an attendee at Woodstock, I believe in the power of art and music to uplift the world and that is what I see CFAER doing on a small scale everyday.
As someone who has experienced tragedy and upheaval in their own life, do you feel you have a unique perspective on our current situation and perhaps some helpful words for whom this is entirely unfamiliar? How is this social distancing time affecting your studio practice? I am teaching online, printmaking without a press, but it seems to be going well. My students are sending me their first project, a relief collagraph and trace line monotype. They have printmaking kits to use for their work and I am excited to see the results. Yes, this is a life situation that is challenging and anxiety producing, but I do find making prints to be a respite from the news, and allows me to focus on what I consider to be important in my life. If you have a creative outlet, like writing, making art, helping friends and family to pursue creative work, we can get through this together.
Please Plug your social media handles or any other place that our readers can find/follow you and your work that you’d like us to know about! I am on Instagram @lindalyke and enjoy posting photos of my process and my print shop poodle, Prince.