Light is a carrier of information. Each particle permeates the atmosphere with both transparency and density, heavy with information. Simultaneously seen and unseen, light comes from the fiery engines of stars and links us to the cosmos. It is this link that captivates me. For the last 35 years of my artistic life, I've worked with scientists and futurists, exploring this link to what I have now come to understand as a web of interconnectedness. My artistic trajectory has been one towards the greater revealing of this profound and luminous web.
Portrait of Lita Albuquerque, photo by Tarek Naga
I was born in the U.S. and raised in North Africa. My background includes a Catholic convent upbringing, the land and architecture of ancient Carthage and Islam, the Sahara Desert, an adventurous and iconoclastic mother, an absent father, and visions of a family over the horizon of the sea. These influences have structured my perception and desires. I have been moved by absence, by solitary meditative practice, by the wind, the land and the earth of North Africa and by longing in my heart. As a result, my trajectory as an artist has had multiple iterations taking place across continents and extending now to a global project: I call this The Great Deserts Project.
Lita Albuquerque, detail of Stellar Axis, 2006, courtesy of the artist and Craig Kull Gallery, photo by Jean De Pomereu
My project Stellar Axis: Antarctica, a reverse sky onto the ice on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica, and 90 degrees North at the North Pole, initiated this project in 2006 and 2007. In that instance, the light of the stars above the North and South Poles were aligned to points on the earth represented by blue spheres of different diameters at the axis points at the poles conceptually creating a shaft of light through the center of the earth, and positing the question that, through the rotation of the earth, we are continually forming a symbol of who we are, connected to the stars. The documentation of this project will be the subject of an exhibit at the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in 2014 and at the Fisher Art Museum at the University of Southern California in 2015 as well as being the subject of a monograph coming out in 2014 and published by the Nevada Museum and Rizzoli.
In January 2014 I plan to make a research trip to the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, the largest salt flats in the world. I am fascinated with how the salt 's surface reflects the sky especially after rains and where the sky and earth become one. I intend for this iteration of The Great Deserts Project to occur in 2016 and be a performance that will be the linking of explorations into light, space and surface across this desert scape. I have chosen the desert precisely for its absence in our urban thinking and lives, enabling people to be the still point, to realize that inner space and outer space are one and the same, and that what we have learned from one informs the other.
Los Angeles is of course a place of light. Van Gogh and Gauguin had Aix-en-Provence, I have Los Angeles. Movie studios moved here for the long days and the dearth of rain, but the light here is much more than its length or endurance.
I was already in Los Angeles when my relationship with MOCA started on the ground level in 1979 when the then Mayor Tom Bradley and arts patron Marcia Weisman created an initiative with 17 Los Angeles Artists to start an Artist Advisory Committee for a museum yet to be built at 250 Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles. The committee's objective was to research and advise on what would be the ideal museum from an artist's point of view. It was an exciting time. MOCA was to be an Artist's Museum. We met once or twice a week at our respective studios and essentially came up with the program, the directors and the exhibitions of what became later MOCA. After a year and a half, we turned over our research and we disbanded. Of course, that gave me and the other 16 artists on the committee a very special relationship to MOCA, one I felt extremely proud of and excited to be a part of. I was happy to also be included in MOCA's very first exhibition The First Show and see the beginning of a program at the Geffen which was then called the Temporary Contemporary with the performance of Available Light choreographed by Lucinda Childs. We were thrilled to finally get the kind of exciting cutting-edge exhibitions we felt Los Angeles deserved and that we were all very passionate about. Richard Koshalek and Pontus Hulten were ideal directors and listened to our ideas and recommendations. Since then, I have been an avid fan of MOCA, and I am thrilled to receive the Distinguished Women in the Arts Award from this museum of which I feel I am such an integral part.
The 8th MOCA Award to Distinguished Women in the Arts luncheon hosted by Sharon Stone honors celebrated Los Angeles artists Lita Albuquerque, Helen Pashgian, Nancy Rubins, and Betye Saar on November 6, 2013 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. All proceeds support MOCA's arts education programming. Ticket info here.