Q&A with Lisa Tabolt
BY: JOANA VILLEGAS
Her ongoing series of over three years The Depths may evoke an image of a otherworldly place far away, but LA based photographer Lisa Talbot shares no interest in documenting the world or how it looks. Rather, she prefers to reimagine it. The CSULB alum builds small-scale environments, and adorns it with unusual items such as preserved insects and miniature instruments in an exciting experimental fashion, and the result is both vibrant and mesmerizing. Some of her projects refer to illness and suffering, while others to fleeting moments and change, but life and death are ever-present themes in all of Lisa’s works. For her, photography is not only a skill a person could learn, but a process of diving into her subconscious mind and translating it. Perhaps even more colorful and inspiring than her current work Cycles is her determination to constantly challenge herself to grow and evolve in the art of photography.
JOANA VILLEGAS: Objects like plastic bags, keys, spoons, and a message in a bottle, litter the underground world you created in The Depths. I took it as a compelling message to advocate for the improvement of the ocean environment. What does it mean to you?
LISA TALBOT: For me, it wasn’t necessarily just about the ocean environment, but more about ourselves, like how we treat our bodies and how we pollute ourselves physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. What we do to ourselves we do to the world. We treat it badly. We abuse it.
I’m a big admirer of the dramatic transitions that take place in Cycles. The message I got out of it is life is fragile. How did the series begin?
Life is incredibly beautiful and magnificent. I’m fascinated by the cycles of life, and how things evolve, develop, and grow. I started Cycles right before graduate school, and it became an evolving thing. I feel like I often go through a lot of emotional and physical cycles. Moods change from day to day, moment to moment, [and Cycles] shows different periods of where I was.
In Perception, the audience’s vision is blurred from seeing clearly. What was the message you were trying to communicate?
We only see what we want to see, and we choose to ignore that which we don’t want to look at, so we will project whatever it is we want to see onto people or the world. It shows that we could not truly know that what we're seeing is the truth or reality.
What themes do you want to communicate in your work?
Death is something I think about a lot. Death is the ultimate peace. If you’ve ever experienced severe chronic pain, you kind of want [death]. It seems nice instead of fearing it. Why are we obsessed with living forever anyway? Why the f*ck do we want to live to be 100? There’s that conflict between do you want to live and do you want to die? Do you want to live better, and what does that mean? All these questions are interesting to me.
Your artist statement reads, "The meaning in my work is in the doing of it.” I love that. I took it as the process is just as important as the end result. What is the process like?
I collect a lot of things: personal things, things that I use, or things that people give to me. I’ll go shopping at the craft store, then I start building. I film a little, I might shoot something. I live with it, so it’s like being in a relationship. I speak to it and it speaks to me. I get irritated. I don’t want to talk to it.
How does living in Los Angeles affect your creative process?
Los Angeles is very much embedded in me. I was exposed to art very young, and I would go to LACMA as long as I could remember. I’ve worked at MOCA, Vita Art Center and The Getty. I’ve been here my whole life and I have a lot of amazing friends that are like family to me. I like to travel and be other places, but I don’t want to live anywhere else at all. It’s funny, I feel like the Woody Allen of LA because I have zero desire to leave.
Out of all the art forms, why did you choose photography?
I was given a camera very young, and once I picked it up I never put it down. My work has a sculptural element to it and a lot of people think my work looks like painting, so there’s definitely influence that’s not just photography. Have you seen the documentary, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi?” ...It’s about falling in love with what you do. Fall in love with your medium and find new ways to love it and new things to learn about it. Photography’s been that way for me. It’s evolving all the time. It’s an exciting medium, even in traditional film. I always keep coming back to it.
What is the most important advice you would give to someone pursuing a creative career?
Just not to give up. Be stubborn in what you want to do and just do it. Follow your heart and persevere, as they say.