Conversation with Martin Durazo, part 2, sponsored by Soto Studios, as part of Conversations by
Artists for Artists, 2016
December 30, 2016
Interview with Mary Anna Pomonis
Isabelle Lutterodt is the director of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the former director of Angel’s Gate Cultural Center. Isabelle is an accomplished artist who has an M.F.A. from Cal Arts and has had a long career as an exhibiting artist, curator, and educator. Known for her progressive approach to museum education, her projects all have unique participatory elements.
Mary Anna Pomonis: You have such an amazing multi-disciplinary practice from video work, to directing museum education and curating, where do you find your inspiration and time? How do you see these practices as linked?
Isabelle Lutterodt: Thank You! Two things I realized soon after graduate school was that I made work slowly and that I enjoyed developing exhibitions that created space for my perspective on the world. It was through embracing my process and the hybrid role of being a curator, educator, and artist that allowed me to see the part I played within the art world in a different way. They were all linked because of the experience I wanted people to have in an exhibition space that engaged ideas, themes, and concepts, that were important to the local communities.
M.A.P.: Your artwork has focused on issues of identity and trauma, how has the exploration of these topics crossed over in all of your different disciplines?
I.L.: My work engages in forgotten narratives, erasure, and the transcendent power of hope. I feel a deep investment in creating space for communities whose voices need to be amplified. A recent "Ah ha" moment happened while I was working at Angels Gate Cultural Center on the year-long exhibition with the Local Union 2375 in Wilmington. My vision was to find artists whose work helped to bring out themes that reflected the stories I was hearing about from the Pile Drivers. The journey to be able to find work resulted in something that I never could have imagined as the gallery became a space that brought together different people in the community through the process of sharing personal narratives. This show allowed me to see how, by closely aligning my interests in curating, educating, and art-making, I was able to bring people together. Looking back, the crossover was a natural next step.
M.A.P.: Right away with your first exhibition at Barnsdall, it is obvious that you are a visionary curator; what is your vision for Barnsdall and what do you see in the future?
I.L.: There are fantastic people at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) that I am able to work with and who challenge me to be a better director. LAMAG is one of the few municipally funded institutions left in the US. Therefore, it is through our exhibitions and programming that the gallery can play a pivotal role in nurturing conversations that resonate with communities throughout the Los Angeles. I am inspired by the work of the former Gallery curator Josine Ianco-Starrels who, at a time when few institutions were showing Latino and African American artists, curated shows that included their voices. I'm thinking about: How does the gallery continue to show work by artists who don't have a platform? How does the gallery remain relevant for artistic and non-artistic communities? How can we foster community engagement through collaborations within and outside of the city family? How can we nurture and connect artists within Los Angeles in meaningful ways that are supportive to their practice and soul? These are all part of the role that I want the gallery to play within Los Angeles.
M.A.P.: Your artwork incorporates photography, personal narrative, and writing. How do you see these forms as connected and in what ways do you use these forms to connect with students when they interact with artwork?
Poetry is a very powerful way of connecting with students and inviting them to share their experiences. Last year, I worked on repurposing the photographs and text from erasure/agitation, my book about John Brown and Frederick Douglass, to consider the #blacklivesmatter movement for a show at the Los Angeles City College. It was very powerful to see how the work and the accompanying text created space for the students to talk about race, history, and what has been erased. In thinking about forgotten histories, it is important for students to reflect on what they do or don't see and consider why this is the case. In the book, the combination of photography, narrative, and other text created a layering of voices that each inform one another. Without each voice, something is incomplete. There is a photograph from the erasure/agitation series of thickets and trees that frame a small pond. The image is purposefully dull because the forgotten history behind the image is loaded. The image frames a wooded area on Maryland's eastern shore where Frederick Douglass was born and raised by his grandmother until the age of six when he was deemed old enough to serve as a slave in the plantation house. This juxtapose is important as we think of other nondescript places where heroic acts of bravery or kindness might have occurred.
M.A.P: What are the biggest themes in your work right now?
I continue to work on the meditation series. I am producing a new piece for an upcoming show that Vincent Johnson is curating.
Isabelle Lutterodt is a cultural landscape photographer and curator engaging with issues of erasure and memory. Focused on the social history of under represented communities and cultures, Lutterodt uses a wide variety of methods to unearth forgotten stories within communities. Lutterodt holds an MFA in Photography from California Institute of Arts and an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies from the University of Leicester, Leicester, UK. She has curated throughout the Los Angeles area focused on cultural and community based issues. Her work has been exhibited at the New Walk Museum, UK, California African American Museum, Kellogg University Art Gallery at Cal Poly Pomona, and the University of Redlands. She is director of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and Barnsdall Art Park.