Interconnected, Intimate Art
Written by Genie Davis
As an artist who feels an integral connection to both the past and the future, both are very much a part of how Galia Linn creates, and the meaning behind her work.
Her sinuous, alive-looking sculptural pieces reveal wonderful intertwined and interconnected aspects that actively involve the viewer.
“In my practice the idea of a ‘now’ that is separate from a ‘then’ goes away. Linear progressions become interconnected circles. My sense of time and space while working feels like an expanding sphere. Thoughts of past, present, and future, here and there, beginning and ending, do not apply,” she says. “Everywhere I’ve been and all the time I’ve spent in my life show up as I’m making. It’s more like an intricate landscape where I am moving freely in all directions in space and in time, digging into areas that capture my curiosity.”
Linn grew up in Israel, where she says she was instilled with an intimate connection to ancient and contemporary relics from both past and present.
“It primed me for a relationship with the ancient. My curiosity keeps returning to Çatalhöyük, a civilization from 7500-5700 BCE in what is now Anatolia, Turkey because they had specific practices that make complete sense to me and continue to inform my work. These sites of excavation and the act of excavating are potent inroads into reclaiming lost knowledge, experience, and perception.”
In Çatalhöyük, highly symbolic objects were created such as goddess figures and bull heads, molded from clay or carved from limestone, Linn relates. Burial sites at homes suggest to her that “death and life are not necessarily a binarism, but one act—a conflation of time and space with the possibility of inhabiting past, present, and future in the same moment.”
And these ideas created one that has become central to Linn’s work: “This way of inhabiting one’s life is like a continual excavation,” she asserts.
Evidence of both connection and dichotomy appear throughout her compelling, visceral work. “The physical cracks…are windows into the interior structure; its source of strength. Relics that appear fragile can be rock-strong,” she says.
As she stretches materials to their limit – to the edge of potential rupture – she reveals both strength and fragility in her installations, sculptural work, and painting.
Asked which mediums she is inspired to use at a given time, and why, Linn responds that “I begin by listening to the unique voice of each site. This always comes first. This informs the entire process including choices about materials, scale, and form. My work is developed in dialogue with that specific place and time. It leads me to create installations that speak that particular language; to construct relationships that allow elemental tensions to surface.”
According to Linn, her STONE (2019) at Craft Contemporary, serves as a strong example of this, as the first piece in a new series of work examining ideas of strength and vulnerability within human bodies. It was inspired by the circular stone ruins of ritual gathering sites, and display in the museum’s courtyard.
The work “serves as a guardian…a sentry both welcoming and guarding the museum and its visitors; its presence reminding us that strength and vulnerability come hand in hand and that we carry both inside.”
Like so much of Linn’s work, it serves as a vessel, and as a “relic from an excavation, evidence of a ritual,” according to Linn. Her vessels are, she explains, “bodies with space to receive, hold, and carry.” They come with “invitations to step inside and inhabit a moment of pause.”
Her work is both welcoming and inspiring, as well as being highly experiential. They are images arising from “some unfathomable place.”
She adds that “The vessels hold and carry these markings into the viewer where it can be translated into something that resonates uniquely with their inner frameworks of meaning and consciousness…”
For Linn, they represent phenomenology, which “values the vastness of the human being at that moment in time, grappling with the nature of this uniquely human experience.”
She is referring to the study of structures of experience, or consciousness, and the sensorial appearances of things. She finds a quote from Louise Bourgeois particularly meaningful: that the artist is given a gift of being at ease with and trusting their unconscious, to have a deeper perception of it.
That deeper perception includes the experience of today’s pandemic, or as she describes it, a “moment of serious pause.”
During this pause, Linn is considering ways to create a more inclusive and supportive arts community, and posits considering universal income for artists – a resoundingly good idea to install UBI across the board is especially essential to support the arts.
She is currently in a collaboration with Track 16 gallery to help give to those most in need. Utilizing works from her Intentions series, Linn is donating 25% to 50% of the proceeds from artwork sales to the LA Regional Food Bank, to help make sure no one in the community goes hungry. “In the past two weeks, we have sold ten of my guardians which provided 10,000 meals.” The initiative continues throughout the summer and into the fall.
Despite the stress of these times, Linn has personally been on something of a renaissance with her work.
“I began reconnecting with my own sense of joy, experimenting with color using multiple layers of glazes to reach bright jewel tone color expressions. In preparation for a solo show early 2021, I’ve also started working with new materials such as stucco and foam, and using lots and lots of pinks and reds. These things are making me smile.”
One such work is the lush and vibrant “Stilletto,” which electrifies with its palette.
And despite closed, postponed, or canceled projects, she’s been involved in formal and casual virtual studio visits, and is exploring other initiatives than the now on-hold joyous Blue Roof Studios Arts festival to also support the art community.
Of all the materials she works in, Linn describes clay as the one she loves most. “I love the smell and the way I feel physically exhausted from working with large bodies of clay. My love/pain relationship with clay began when I was 18 years old,” she explains. “Years later, in LA, when I was finding my way back to making art, I …spent three years learning how to throw.”
Finding that process too remote and detached, as well as difficult to scale as she envisioned, she learned to weld at Otis, and worked on metal for two years.
“Clay at the time was considered the work I was doing to get ready for the ‘real’ work, a warm-up not to be taken seriously,” she says.
But after viewing work such as Peter Voulkos’ Clay’s Tectonic Shift at Scripps, part of the Pacific Standard Time initiative, and Sterling Ruby’s ceramics at the de La Cruz Collection, Linn was inspired to return to clay.
“These works were monumental in scale and unapologetic about the material. They boldly claimed the space they occupy in the world. I began to realize the value of clay as a material, on par with any other,” she reports.
From there she became freer and more playful, mixing influences and techniques, and developing fluency in all disciplines. “This mix of influences and techniques is not utilized linearly, and any standard rules of the game do not apply…disciplines are tools to feed and articulate the intuitive body.”
Creating what she describes as “places of ritual inhabited by clay relics,” she uses low-fire clay and glaze in high-fire temperatures to bring out bubbles and cracks; tack welds large slabs of clay, and soaks clay with water, among other techniques.
“But mostly I surrender to the clay, to its memory, and let it guide me through the process of rearranging dirt. Clay, like solid bookends, offers a frame of support that allows everything in between to stand.” She terms the material “the beginning and the end for me. It informs other materials such as yarn, paint, wood, stucco and hydrocal, all of which also inform my clay practice. It is essential to my life.”
And it becomes equally essential for viewers mesmerized by the fluid, mysterious, and experiential quality of Linn’s work.
To experience it online if not in person, extended exhibits and initiatives presently include:
The Body, the body the other at Craft Contemporary, viewable online
Linn is hopeful that two installation and performance projects in collaboration with Amanda Maciel Antunes, part of Irrational Exhibits 12 and Feminist Art Coalition, will be taking place in Fall 2020, as well as a solo show at Track 16 in January, 2021. As with so many plans right now, her ability to stay fluid and say “maybe” continues to be the working model.
But then, with the circular confluence of past, present, and future so much a part of her work, it would be surprising if Linn approached any of this in another way.