American artist Lyric Morris-Latchaw shares with us how being an artist and farmer directly inform the other and how she is pushing the boundaries of what a painting can be.
Can you describe your studio routine?
Because I split my time working as both an artist and a farmer, my routine ends up looking very different depending on the time of year. In the winter, I’m able to focus almost entirely on my artwork, and spend most of the day from breakfast until dinner painting. I always start by lighting a candle in my studio as a blessing. Actually, that is a lie — I start with a bucket of coffee. Then the candle. Then I usually tidy my studio a bit before jumping into the work of the day. I tend to work on several pieces at once, and jump between them throughout the day depending on where my energy lies. I really struggle to be inside for large amounts of time, so I often punctuate my winter days with several walks, and go for a run in the afternoons. I also try to focus on reading and studying as research for my work during the winter months. During the summer, my life looks very different! My main focus pivots towards growing food, and I am usually working very long, exhausting days. I end up painting in the evenings (when I have energy) and on rainy days, and I try to set aside one day a week as a full studio day. I tend to work on much smaller pieces and more drawings. I used to feel like a poser because of this summer shift, but have learned overtime to embrace the seasonality of it as a good gift. My art-making and farming inform one another in an endless loop, and I am not sure that I could do one without the other.
Given your care for earth, how do incorporate sustainability into your painting practice and the materials you use?
The environmental impacts of art-making (particularly oil painting) are something that I have always struggled to reconcile with my values. In Cincinnati, we are so lucky to have an incredible art supply thrift store called Indigo Hippo that has really helped me out with this; artists can drop off anything from ribbon scraps to half-used bottles of turpentine, and they sell everything back to artists with sliding scale pricing. I have a promise to myself to only buy used paint that I find there (though I will admit that I do occasionally end up buying a new tube of white when I’m desperate!). It’s a fun and meaningful challenge for me to accept the limitations of what’s available and learn to do without what I don’t have. Because I’m always adjusting to working with new brands, tinting strengths, colors, etc., it has also taught me to plan and sketch more before painting — this has been good for my work. In the next year, I am also planning to take a deep dive into natural and mineral pigment foraging and making my own paints; my work is deeply rooted in understanding the natural elements that directly surround me, and I love the idea of tangibly bringing that into my work.
What inspires the muted tones in your colour palette? What considerations have you made through this choice?
On a simple level, these are just the colors that I have always naturally been drawn to. If auras are a thing, I’m pretty sure mine is a weird explosion of beige and murky pink. I like to think of my paintings as idealized and reimagined versions of the actual environments around me, so it’s important to me that the color rides the line between organic and imaginative. Like the dying rose bush in your yard, but with a little Suess-ian twist.
Your 3-dimensional paintings, Left Handed, Relation, & The Asparagus Stalk, are captivating. How do the three dimensional elements change the work for you? Do you think you'll push your painting practice further into this sculptural style?
Thank you, and I am so glad that you asked this question! A lot of the projects that I am currently working on blur the lines between sculpture and painting even more dramatically; I definitely see my future work taking a shift towards painted sculpture and installation. The concept of “embodiment” is very important to me, and there is something about the tangibility and physical presence of the three-dimensional forms that just feels right. I like that they take up space! This winter, I am creating a series of semi-functional painted garden sculptures that I will install next spring; my hope is for them to become a collaboration with my gardens as the plants grow into and around them. That being said, I feel like I will always consider myself first and foremost a painter, and almost think of the sculptural pieces as just crazy-shaped canvases.
Which artist has had the greatest impact on your work and practice?
This is such a hard question! I grew up in a really small town in rural Iowa where there wasn’t really an arts community to speak of. When I was in college, I spent a summer interning at an experimental artist residency in Greensboro, NC called Elsewhere Museum. I spent months living and working alongside visiting artists from all over the world, and this season really opened up my eyes to what was possible in the art world and to what it meant to live a creative life. If I’m answering this question totally honestly, the people I interacted with there probably had the greatest impact and set me off on my current trajectory. Other artists that I feel have strongly shaped my work are Fairfield Porter, Hilma af Klint, and Charles Burchfield. I spend a lot of time looking at Fauvist landscapes, and a Canadian school of painters from the 1920-30s called The Group of Seven.
What has been your biggest challenge as an artist?
I think that my greatest challenge has been learning to trust my own creative voice over the imagined voices of “others” while I’m in the studio. I literally used to sit in my studio and stare at my work while mentally scrolling through how every single person I know might react to it. This was (obviously) really paralyzing, and it has been real and hard work to overcome that tendency and rediscover my own creative worth. Reading the book “Art & Fear” was hugely influential for me. I also think that coming from a rural area and a school not known for its art program has been a challenge; it has been an uphill battle to build relationships and create opportunities within the art world because I didn’t leave school with the connections that many emerging artists do. Also time! Where is the time??
Thank you Lyric for sharing a bit about practice as an artist with us!