Cammofleur is an artist project consisting of interviews with Mary Anna Pomonis and women in the artworld. The conversations focus on female power and the dynamics of creativity and success.
M.A.P.: Even though I think there's an element of distortion in your work that is evident, there is a palpable struggle for objectivity.
S.L: How do you see that play out?
M.A.P.: The work looks like you're really attempting to include everything that you see within a vision.
S.L.: Equally, yeah, it's very democratic in a way. That's true.
M.A.P.: I've always really liked that about your work. There is this unrelenting quality in the artwork. As an artist you have this desire to record as accurately as possible. In that it's such a crazy space because it's impossible. They're so populated with stuff it's impossible. At some point there's a breakdown.
SL: Yeah, yeah it has to be simplified and interpreted to some level. You can't include every single crack. I guess I've always felt like architecture and buildings are so objective, logical and rational that it’s important to bring intense color and to skew perspective. Doing that makes it subjective in that sense, but it is very democratic at the same time too. Where there are different areas I don't really approach them differently. Wealthy areas versus poor areas, dense, versus, more suburban areas; it's all approached with the same technique. I guess that's always been an intuitive approach. It got to the point with the work where I manipulate the images I used and now that I'm actually flying in helicopters and taking my own pictures the manipulation is more about where I choose to go. A lot of it is accidental, as you can't plan for everything. I let that creep into the work too and try not to control everything so much, you know.
M.A.P.: How did you go up and how does that work?
S.L: I started doing it a few years ago. Actually I flew over Los Angeles with a relative that came to visit a few years ago. It was the first time I had been in an a helicopter and we flew the basic tourist route – from the beach through Hollywood, Downtown, Dodgers Stadium, all that, but then I did the Metro project and I wanted to depict a specific area. I actually had to charter a helicopter and go fly over the station area, and I did two flights. A day flight and a night flight because my design for station has day side panels and night side panels. There are a lot of helicopter companies in Los Angeles and they charge a rate for about 400 bucks an hour and it’s pretty neat. It’s funny that I make this work because I really do fear heights.
M.A.P.: Do you really?
S.L.: I really do. Going out in a helicopter, to get better photos, we don't have doors on it. Like with news helicopters, it’s not like that; the ones you rent are very small. It’s like an elaborate toy really because you are floating around. It’s like a Jeep basically, open air.
M.A.P.: You are just strapped in it as tightly as possible.
S.L.: Yeah, you can’t have stuff in your pocket, everything has to be strapped to you because if it falls out it can actually get caught in the rotor and then down the whole thing, it's kind of intense, but it's opened up my work because I don’t have to search for photos. I don’t have to buy photos. You know if I have been out there for an hour with 2 other people we can take 1000 photos. Then I can pick from all that and use them for a long period of time. It’s really been great. It’s actually very cost effective.
S.L.: I'm hardly a photographer so I have had to learn how to shoot at night from a moving helicopter.
M.A.P.: It’s amazing.
S.L.: I have had some successes and some failures. It's been a learning curve but I've got good friends that go up with me; who are really good photographers (artist Justin Moore and his wife Andrea Boeck). That helps a lot. That’s the kind of a thing I couldn’t have imagined doing at the beginning. I didn’t think that big but it kind of came out as a necessity. This piece I'm currently working on made me realize I really need to re-shoot downtown because it has changed so much in the last like 2 years. These are 2009 photos and there are empty lots and those aren’t there any more so it’s all changed
M.A.P.: It will be interesting to see photos of that big burn site too with the fire downtown. (referring to Geoff Palmer’s burned Da Vinci apartments)
S.L.: Yeah, actually that would be great. That was a really interesting story.
M.A.P.: Yeah, I mean it was so deliberate; there were so many fires. I don’t know how many they said were set. It seemed like it was multiple locations in the same building.
S.L.: Yeah, it was definitely on purpose. The developer (Geoff Palmer) is an interesting guy. He's been trying to change the shape of downtown building these apartment buildings that a lot of people think are monstrosities.
S.L: He is also… correct me if I am wrong, but his wife is on the board of LACMA.
M.A.P.: Is she really?
S.L.: Yeah. It’s interesting, one good thing I could say about him although I’m not a fan of his architectural vision is that he did put money into downtown when nobody would do it. He was one of the first people that built big, new apartment buildings and brought people back there en-mass. Seems like that’s how it has to happen in this town to reach a higher population density.
S.L: It takes someone with power, but often not the person that you would pick to do it, if you had to pick someone based on aesthetics and sensitivity to the area. His company “accidentally” tore down the last building on Bunker Hill. I mean it’s not the person you pick but, to me that’s sort of how it’s typical, it's why I love drawing LA because it’s this paradox. This horribleness; it opens things up for opportunity. It does seem like a lot of Los Angeles has that paradox to it, like punching a hole in something in order for things to grow.
M.A.P.: That is an interesting analysis.
S.L.: I follow those types of things more than the art world politics at this point. Like how this city is growing and the politics behind land use and how subjective that is. How accidental a lot of it is. That’s more inspiring material for me recently. My husband (artist Brian Cooper) always laughs at me because he's like, "You are making LA into in a small town," because it’s almost like this small town gossip, who is doing what and who is behind what project. Why things happen the way they do. I think that kind of growth is really interesting to me and inspiring. That narrative I guess, it’s really compelling to me.
M.A.P.: I have always thought your artwork like it’s a big body, you know, or at least when I look at your work I think about it a lot or I have thought about it before. It’s like cancer or something organic that’s growing and changing. The city is like the surface of this body that’s constantly changing and you are noticing things as she ages or changes.
M.A.P.: It is fascinating. It's constant evidence of that. Seeing it change and not really trying to have an opinion about it one way or the other or being objective about it. I mean there's tremendous beauty in just the process of change.
S.L.: Let it happen. I guess I always felt like that’s my job as an artist a lot of times it's almost like a journalist, you just try to record the moment and interpret it. It is not about judging it as much, even though that is kind of hard to do sometimes. But I think living in LA... It's funny because it's such a hated city globally. You do get a pass on all that in your mind, it's like you learn to love it in a way even if it hurts. You become more objective in that sense because you don't really notice outside opinions after awhile. It's not like New York where everybody is such a fan, almost like a team, like sports team that everybody is rallying behind. LA doesn't really have that, you know?
M.A.P.: Yeah, I mean my family in Greece like when I first moved here they said, "Of all the places in the United States that is the last place I should live." I was like, "Why?" My uncle said, "It's the least aesthetic city in the United States." I said, "Really, have you ever been there?" He said, "No." I said, "Why do you feel that you can say that?" He said, "I've seen Bay Watch." His whole vision of the city was from film and TV, so he thought he knew LA. Everybody knows LA. The whole world knows LA.
S.L.: That's the Hollywood sign influence and to be fair LA is not a great place to visit. We just went up to San Francisco last weekend even just doing tourist things there, it’s still a pretty nice time and doing that stuff here, it's horrible. You have to know people here. You have to know where to go here a little bit. That is challenging, I think that adds to its bad reputation because people come here and have a terrible time walking down Hollywood Boulevard. There’s still a lot of stripper shoe stores and weird head shops stuff right by the bus station.
M.A.P.: When I first moved here I worked on the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica and I waited on all of these horrified tourists like, "What in the... This is the worst vacation I've ever been on."
S.L.: Basically... Being harassed by like Jimmy Kimmel’s lackies or something.
M.A.P.: Yeah, they look like, "this is such a bad trip. It's kind of windy and yucky. The water is not really that nice ..."
S.L.: There's garbage on the beach...
M.A.P.: It's a bit horrifying.
S.L.: Visitors never come over on to East side although Highland Park is getting a lot of press so may be people will come over now and try out an afternoon.
M.A.P.: I know, we're starting to get like, you know, I've noticed in the hills you'll hear people like musicians practicing, new creative people, you can tell they're from New York. Which is something I never thought I would see happen.
S.L.: There's been a big creative drain from New York and San Francisco, but for LA... it's worked out really well for LA. I'm just hoping economically we can maintain that.
M.A.: We can absorb it?
S.L.: Yeah, I just keep hearing rents are up by around 10% by August it's like where are the artists going to go?
M.A.P.: Well, because everything seems cheap if you're from Brooklyn.
S.L.: How long is that going to last? We do have space on our side, which is great. It's big enough, there's always going to be an area that's un-tapped to a point. Someday that might end. Right now it's not anywhere near done, there's still whole pockets that are undeveloped and there are empty lots.
S.L.: I remember years ago you and I we were having a conversation about time with my work and you were saying that the time it takes to look at my work and to make it. The idea that most people can understand that hard work pays off. That over time a lot can happen and I just think a lot about how drawing these areas that are still very busy and how the world is sped up but yet at the same time the drawings are very analog. It's just paper and pencils. I like that paradox of those things. I think the work is maybe ultimately about that. It's interesting to think about LA and time passing here and say, I've been here 15 years, I can't even believe that that's happened but there’s so much change in that time. It's amazing that you drive through an area that you haven't been in a year or two and all of a sudden it's totally different. You don't recognize the block at all. I don't know if that's true in a lot of other cities. Maybe China has had that kind of growth.
M.A.P.: Yeah, no, it's intense here. You get lost and don't know where you are and one thing will be the same and that's it. Everything else will be different and ...
S.L.: There is an amnesia. Until you forget what was there too. It's really interesting. I think Norman Klein wrote a lot about that. About Bunker Hill and how there's this forgetting. The History of Forgetting, that was his book. How there was an erasing that would happen and then of course like two generations later the memory is gone too, just exists in old photographs in some historical society that's not looked at. There's a glossing over. I guess that's the most interesting, that I think about the most lately but maybe it's because I'm getting older too. There's that. Time's speeding up for me too.