Lucha Rodriguez has been everywhere this year, showing her work in exhibitions from Spruill Gallery, to the ACA Gallery of SCAD, to Hong Kong and even Paris. She’s kind of like Atlanta’s version of Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz; it’s easy to imagine her floating through the skies from place to place in a pink sparkling bubble. Rodriguez was the recipient of the 2010 Forward Arts Foundation Emerging Artists Award, and she shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. (Her work is currently on view in Beep Beep Gallery‘s cleverly timed anti-photography-month show, Atlanta Celebrates Pornography, continuing through November 7.) We sat down with Rodriguez in her Fourth Ward studio to get to know more about what’s really behind all that pink.
BURNAWAY: We have to ask: Have you always liked pink so much?
Lucha Rodriguez: Yes! … I just feel like we all gravitate toward things [that we have always liked] since we’re little. Like ice-cream flavors and stuff like that. I’m just trying to explore that, and I embrace it. I try to study it. Life is too short; you [need to] experience something and develop this really intense relationship with it. You just start peeling all the layers of it. … Is pink artificial? Is it organic? … All these things: the sense of touch and smell. I eat it, I smell it. I even put on makeup, so I have pink tears and things like that.
Is your house pink?
Just objects [in my house], not the walls or anything like that. Like my toothbrush. And toothpaste. Just to feel what it felt like to brush your teeth with pink, you know, spitting that out. It’s part of the work; it’s part of my performance—my everyday thing. … I’m in love! Ha ha! When you’re in love with somebody, you want to know everything about them, and it’s the same thing with pink.
A lot of your work deals with the body and the interior of the body. Do you think of the inside of your body being pink?
Yes. I read in a book [that] it’s one of the brightest pinks you can get: inside of your body.
Are you trying to achieve that same color with your screen printing on the back of your work?
Yes, everything is screen printed on the back so you get the reflection of the pink [on the wall]. I’m dealing with the internal parts, so it’s everything [oriented] inwards. There are so many layers to the work. In my artist statement, I talk about the body and our levels of existence.
I’m also commenting on printmaking: You don’t only need to rely on ink on paper. You can use ink in so many different ways; a print doesn’t have to be this flat thing. You can cut it out and work with the space and light and create chromatic reflections using print making techniques like silk screens.
I [began] questioning because sometimes when … you have a skill … I felt like I had to stop and question, ‘Why am I printing this like this? I could use this sort of like a new technology, making it into something else.’
What made you start thinking about the interior of your body? When you think about this, is it the interior of your body or everyone’s body?
In the beginning … I was just exploring the color pink. I did doodles all the time, and they were always organic. But I felt they were really very intestinal—twisted and bending—and I thought, ‘Hey, it’s the inside of the body.’
And sounds [also] inspired me. I would draw and go [insert grumble noise], you know, making weird sounds to myself. So it started more of this introspective thing.
Right now, I relate [the body interior theme] to every body. It’s something you experience [individually], but you can share with others. I’m just commenting on something I feel, and other people can relate to it.
You’ve had a busy year: You won the Forward Arts Foundation award, and you’ve been traveling a lot to do installation work. What’s been the best part so far?
This year has been amazing. I’m just grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had … to travel. I did two big installations in Hong Kong early this year, and it was amazing to bring all your art supplies there and just start cutting.
I think just having the support of the Forward Arts Foundation boosts you. It’s this confidence you get, and you want to make more work, even when you’re running low of energy and spending so much money. Whenever I sell a piece, I just spend it and spend it …. I’m not really making any money. I feel like I’m spending everything, because that’s what I feel like I need to do. I’m really grateful just to have the support. I’m just trying to stay true to myself [and] keep on working.
You’re originally from Venezuela, and you came here for school. Do you think that plays into your work?
I mean, it’s just part of this whole whatever-it-is-you-are. I’m still trying to figure [that] out.
… When I was back home, all the different artists had all their conceptual roots in European art, and they were all [based] in New York. Like Jesus Soto—he was at the MOMA—so I was like, ‘I guess I have to go, too, if I want to make it.’
I got a scholarship [to the Art Institute of Atlanta]. It’s been almost ten years …. Being here by myself … made me establish a stronger relationship with art. I miss [being] back home. I miss all my family. But I have this dream I want to pursue, so it’s worth it. So I think it helped being apart from everybody.
You use yellow in your work, too. Is the yellow as important to you as the pink?
… I’m all about the ’80s and all the fashion [and] neon colors. Especially right now, I’ve been working with yellow and pink. … I try to make them softer and make them light instead of being all in your face like, ‘Hey, I love the ’80s! Look at my neon print!’ I try to make them more poetic.
Do you ever wake up in the morning and not want to wear pink?
Not yet. … I have so much pink around that, sometimes, I see green spots on white. It’s like when you see the flash [of a camera], and you see the spots; that happens to me sometimes, and I have to wear my sunglasses. But I have to do it … It’s like I’m a mad scientist. … Even if I see green spots I just go outside a little bit and keep on working.
Do you wear sunglasses when you print?
Yes, I do.
Are they pink sunglasses?
Do you have anything special coming up?
Yes, there are many things coming up. But there are still some loose ends here and there, so I don’t want to jinx it. Yeah, lots of exciting projects. Bigger projects. Involving other people and … the outside. And … what else can I say … buildings?
So like a public art piece?
Hopefully. I’ve always been interested in breaking away from the frame. To me, it’s more about space interventions. I’m creating this place for people to immerse [themselves] …. It’s a sort of surreal ….
It’s important for people to travel and … always be open to new things. If you feel comfortable just making sculpture, you’re just going to make the same sculpture all the time because you’re good at it. I don’t think that’s good enough. Sometimes you have to put the work before your ego … and be in a vulnerable position ….
What’s your spirit animal?
I’d say … a pink lioness. Yes.
Atlanta Art Crush is an interview series brought to you by Susannah Darrow, Laura Hennighausen, and photographer Sandy Hooper. Look for profiles of our latest heartthrobs on the last Friday of each month.