Studio Visit – Giulia Piera Livi
Conversation between Amy Boone-McCreesh and Giulia Piera Livi
February, 2019 – Baltimore, MD
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
How long have you been in Baltimore and your current studio?
I moved to Baltimore about three and a half years ago, which was for grad school at MICA in their multidisciplinary program. I moved into this studio afterwards, so I’ve been here for almost a year.
For me, your work seems to exist somewhere between Design and Domesticity, what do you think about when creating?
Definitely those two things. I think about overly-curated home spaces; where does interior design come into the home and why, and what does that mean for a Fine Art practice? Where is the line between those two things?
I come from a really overly-curated home space. My dad collects antiques, so I grew up not being allowed to engage with many of the things in our house. Lots candlesticks and samplers and old furniture. Living with those objects for purely aesthetic purposes is similar to the way private collections function, which is something that is really interesting to think about–art objects as something you actually live with or utilize in some way. How can they reference design and furniture in a way that’s practical and totally impractical at the same time?
Your work has been leaning towards installation, when you are making pieces do you think about them in an ideal environment or as independent things?
I’m definitely a project-based artist, which sometimes makes the studio practice difficult because if I’m not working towards an installation then it can be hard to work on pieces individually. I usually think about the objects ending up in a specific space. The objects always reference a piece of furniture that I’m thinking about like a couch, table, or a lamp–usually something from memory. Then I kind of blur that object into a more simplified form. Like an object that’s pregnant with the idea of another object. But the work really doesn’t come into fruition until I know the space or the environment that it’s going to live in. I love working in spaces where I am allowed to do whatever I want, especially when it comes to the ceilings or the treatment of the floor. Being able to treat the floor makes the work much more immersive. And if that can’t happen, then the existing color of the space plays a huge role in the colors I choose for the work. Being in more open spaces where you can have complete control of every surface, like taking the outlet covers off, making every little detail fit into the installation, is important. Or, in a more raw space, being able to have a small but powerful moment in a corner. Galleries or other spaces being open to allowing that freedom is helpful.
Do you have any habits or rituals in the studio or things that keep you going?
Post-grad school, there’s so much you have to do to keep yourself alive. Financially, it’s really hard to find time in the studio, so I just continually apply to things so that I have deadlines. If I have a show coming up, then I have an excuse to choose studio time over other obligations. That keeps me working. I also apply to residencies because then that forces you to work in a different way, forces you to give yourself that time to be free and not work toward a specific project which I think is also really valuable time. For me, that would include research or small drawings or material studies.
And then just coming to the studio, if not to work, to just be here and be thinking about things–reading or working on applications in the studio can get me excited about a new project or idea.
Do you have any hobbies or things you like to do outside of your studio practice?
Besides making things… I have a really close-knit family, so whenever I have any sort of free time I like to go home. I have three sisters and two nieces. They’re all in the Philly area. I guess you could say my hobby is my family.
What are you looking at or researching right now in the studio?
Design history is something I’m really interested in; Ben Thompson, who started the store Design Research, which introduced this concept of a lifestyle store. It’s this odd moment where Modernism and Minimalism started to happen in the middle class home, which is super weird, how that was marketed to consumers with so much other stuff in their homes. So the history of 1950s and 60s Interior Design is something I look back to a lot. Fine Art-wise, I’m a fan of Minimalism, Color Field Painting, Light Art, and Relational Aesthetics. Agnes Martin is my first love. For artist references, I also try to look for things that don’t look anything like my own work to get ideas. Mika Rottenberg is a big inspiration because it just makes me think about how I can push the work to make it weirder and more immersive in a psychological way rather than in a totally physical way. Lily van der Stokker gave me a huge push to incorporate mural painting with objects and furniture. Post-minimal practices such as Byron Kim and Janine Antoni. And women who work with interiors like Andrea Zittel, or beautiful surfaces like Helen O’Leary.
How do you think about materials? Your work alludes to something utilitarian or functional, do materials play a role in this?
I’ve always loved sewing; I wasn’t really into art until late in high school, so I guess sewing was my art practice growing up. Then I went to Penn State for painting. In the summers I worked for the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia on a few different projects and did some murals elsewhere when I could. Painting became the biggest part of my practice until moving to Baltimore, where I started to revisit that fiber background. I found that the fabric referenced the upholstery I was trying to create, but also the sewn line could act kind of as a reference to the painted line. I was able to bridge that gap because I wanted the surface to be more tactile. Using found and dyed materials lended itself more to that concept than painting.
I’ve made works that are completely functional, whether that be a light source or the water taps. I’ve had paintings that run water, to try to force interaction with the viewer to see if they’d turn the water on and off without prompt. But the interaction was lacking something so I started making the works with taps that run hand-dyed sand instead. The sand was much more luscious and inviting to the viewer, so people were able to approach and engage with the work pretty easily, without any prompt from the gallery or myself. I’m thinking about objects that reference a specific use, or have a specific use, where that use is kind of absurd. Objects of desire or objects as a form of futuristic commerce in some way.
What do you have coming up that you’d like to promote?
A few of my grad school peers and I are co-curating a show in San Juan, Puerto Rico at Walter Otero Gallery this May. It’s being organized by Edward Sanchez, who is from Puerto Rico, with myself, Maren Henson, Bryan Funk, and Mandy Chesney. It’s a big group show with almost everyone from our class and the class under us, which has been really fun to work together again. We started planning it all while we were still in grad school because we wanted to continue to show together, produce multidisciplinary work, and stay connected. It was delayed at first because of the hurricane, and the show turned into more of a question of how to support the gallery and do something for them rather than doing this for us. So it’s finally back on track. Other than that, I have a two person show at VisArts in Rockville next fall, and a solo show at Artspace in Richmond also next fall. I currently have work up in the 13|U Art Windows which is run in conjunction with Hamiltonian in Washington, D.C. and that will be up until March 15th, with a closing reception on February 24th.