The walls of our spaces are filled with amazing pieces of art created by women, and with International Women’s Day taking place on March 8, we’ve been featuring the work of women in art all month long. This week, we’re closing out the series with Liljana Mead Martin, whose work explores the material ecologies of deep time, cultivation and climate evolution through sculpture and installation.
Her art work Deep Thirst BioOrchestra, seen in The Drake Hotel Classic Wing Lobby, imagines a new botanical species, grown from a fire-scorched landscape. Made using sculptural casts of her own body, the pieces drip with fluorescent colours and resemble thermal gradient maps. Created in Vancouver in 2021, the work was inspired by the real-life heat waves that hit the Pacific Northwest, drying out delicate northern rainforest ecosystems and includes collected wood bases from dried and fallen branches.
We chatted with Liljana to hear more about her current projects, and the women in the art space inspiring her right now. You can keep up with her work on Instagram @liljana_mead.
+ What are you working on that has you personally or professionally excited?
I recently moved to New York, which has been a big step personally and professionally. It took a tremendous amount of planning, saving and effort to get here especially during a global pandemic, but I am very excited about the artists I am meeting here. I’m excited to be planning a few upcoming exhibitions of my work! I also organize and facilitate BIOMASS which is a platform that hosts exhibitions and transcribed dialogues with artists. It is an ongoing project that has been very fortifying especially at this time.
+ Can you tell us how you first came to cast your own body in your work? How does your physical presence in the work impact the way it develops?
Well, there is a long tradition of women artists who have been working directly with the body in both sculpture and performance. I’m interested in that history and in interdisciplinary approaches to artmaking. At this point, my work is evolving on its own and has become much more abstracted. The point isn’t to recreate my own physical presence in the work but to push it into a different reality. Casting is just a tool to allow those materializations to happen more immediately and fluidly in the studio.
+ Who are some of your important role models or mentors who are women?
There have been many women who have influenced my work. Since I did my undergrad at NSCAD in Halifax and my MFA at ECU in Vancouver, Canadian sculptors have been particularly inspiring. I saw my first Valérie Blass exhibition in 2014 and have been following her work since. I love the tensions she creates between figuration and material and the strange surrealism that emerges. When I was a student I was very influenced by Janine Antoni’s work, I still think that her range and way of expressing her ideas is really cool. As for mentors, they have been friends, teachers, peers, colleagues, and family.
+ What advice would you give to young up-and-coming artists?
Artists need each other to survive.
+ Who are some women in the art space who are inspiring you right now?
It’s hard to know where to start. Before the pandemic I used to work as an exhibition tech at the Vancouver Art Gallery and I helped install the Shuvinai Ashoona exhibition ‘Mapping Worlds’. Those drawings are some of my favorite artworks of all time. I’ve really enjoyed seeing Rochelle Goldberg’s work, there is a timelessness in her works which as an artist I know is hard to capture, but she does it so well. I recently was introduced to Fin Simonetti’s work and those sculptures are incredibly crafted and detailed, just wow! I also love Eve Tagny’s artwork and choreographies, her research weaves through media with deep consideration to both image and material. I really enjoyed seeing Tsēmā Igharas’ exhibition Black Gold at grunt gallery last year, each installation held its own space in a subtle yet impactful way.
+ Coffee or Tea?
+ Your go-to comfort food?
Tibetan momos, yumyum.
+ What’s the last book you read or movie you watched that had an impact on you?
The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.