Erika Lizeé at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum with the 2023 Installation of Seed of Life, Acrylic on Duralar, 8′ x 22′ x 3′
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the world around us and the possibilities that exist beyond what we currently understand. I was raised in a Catholic family, where the beliefs of religion were presented as fact. When I left home at eighteen, I went on a journey of self-discovery, in search of my own belief system. Here, the eloquent words of Robert Frost ring true, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
I understand the human need for belonging and the desire for answers to existential questions – this is what religious communities and dogma provide, certainty in an uncertain world. I have always had an inquisitive, observant and reflective nature. Over the years, I’ve learned that I am more interested in the gray areas; I like the openness and possibility of not knowing. This inspires me to consider ideas like the relationship between the visible and the invisible and the interconnectedness of all things. I like to contemplate the larger spiritual or energetic connections between things, which is why I am so intrigued by the mathematical precision and beauty of sacred geometry. In my studio practice and life in general, I maintain an awareness towards the interconnectedness and beauty of the world around us; the magic of it all. In this headspace, I am free to imagine that almost anything is possible.
Erika Lizeé, Infinite Love, Flesh and Blood, 2019 Installation at MOAH Lancaster, CA, 28′ x 26′ x 3′
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I paint almost every day. I see this as a form of self-care, much like exercising; painting is something that I have to do to feel like myself. My style of painting is rooted in smooth blending and this way of working is very calming; it’s meditative. Motivation isn’t really an issue for me as I’ve built studio time into part of my daily routine, even if it’s just an hour. It counts.
I stay interested in my work because there are a lot of different aspects to what I do. Making large, site-specific installations is very physical. There are the countless hours I spend painting in the studio ahead of an installation but then when I am on site, I am up on ladders and scissor lifts, painting on walls, and suspending things from the ceiling. The process is really fun. I used to paint on canvas, but the work itself wasn’t saying enough and I wasn’t fulfilled by the process. I took the leap in graduate school to make installation work and I haven’t looked back since.
Erika Lizeé, Transfiguration, 2016 Installation in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX,
7′ x 43′ x 5′
What is the hardest part of creating your art?
The hardest part of making my work relates to available time. I am the Visual Arts Department Chair at Moorpark College, a wife and mother of two. It’s a constant balancing act. It can be difficult, and at times frustrating when I feel like I am not able to put as much time into my studio practice as I would like. Time management and being able to prioritize are critical aspects of my studio practice, which is why I am always emphasizing these life skills to my students.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the action you produce?
I have a lengthy design phase for any of my projects. My installations are typically site-specific, so a lot of planning goes on ahead of time, which always includes measuring and graph paper. I start with visual research and sketches. I also like to use tracing paper in the design phase so that I can quickly imagine different layers of elements overlapping each other in the physical space of the installation. Sometimes I will play around with my sketches in Photoshop for some quick color tests. Once I have the design figured out in relation to the physical space where it will be installed, then I’m off to the races.
Erika Lizeé, Gazing Into the Great Unknown, 2018 Installation at Pierce College Art Gallery,
8’ x 51’ x 3’
What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
In my artwork, I embrace a sense of wonder. I imagine gallery walls as thresholds between different realms or states of existence, between the visible and the invisible, between this physical plane we inhabit and other worldly planes beyond our awareness. The use of illusion in my work is important, as it gives rise to simultaneous feelings of wonder and uncertainty in viewers. It serves as a metaphor for how we can feel such awe for the beauty and complexity of the world we live in, while also harboring intense feelings of doubt and anxiety surrounding the big questions we have regarding where we come from, what our purpose is, and what happens when we eventually move beyond this life. For many of us, there is an ever-present urge for transcendence, going beyond the mundane to experience the sublime. Through my artwork, I hope to provide an otherworldly experience for viewers.
Erika Lizeé, Homage to the Mystery and Wisdom of the Feminine, 2017 Installation at ArtShare LA,
8′ x 13′ x 2′
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?
There are two interconnected ideas I would share with someone starting out as an artist. The first is to accept and embrace who you are. Our artwork is an extension of who we are. Like our handwriting, it is what flows from us. Release worries of being judged and don’t be afraid to share that with the world. The second notion is to just KEEP GOING! Being an artist is not an easy road, and you have to become your own cheerleader. There will be many ups and downs along the way, but living a creative life is worth it. Sharing yourself and your work with people is a way to connect and develop a deeper sense of meaning and purpose for your life. Find your people too. Developing a network of creative friends to help you feel supported is crucial. You can do it!
Erika Lizeé, The Subtle Body Prepares for Emergence, 2022 Installation at Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, CA, 8′ x 30′ x 3′