Lucha Rodriguez- Artist Q&A
Lucha Rodriguez is a visual artist with a variety of work from etchings, silkscreen prints, to elaborately layered installations. Lucha celebrates her love of paper and the color pink which have become a hallmark in her work. With meticulously delicate cuts, Lucha guides her marks into a rhythmic pattern transforming the paper medium. Her mastery of light and shape manipulation give the illusion of multi-color schemes and creates a liveliness within each piece.
Lucha received her BFA in Graphic Design at the Art Institute of Atlanta and immediately went on to earn an MFA in Printmaking at Savannah College of Art and Design. During her career, she has been featured in many group and solo exhibitions in the U.S. and internationally. Lucha has received grant awards from the City of Atlanta, and Art on the Beltline to create public art murals and sculptural projects.
Rigby Ink visited Lucha in her studio where she shares with us her journey in her art practice and her determination to break free from societies stereotypes.
RIGBY INK- I’d like to begin by asking you to describe your life leading up to emigrating from Venezuela.
LUCHA RODRIGUEZ- Creating has been a point of connection for me. When I think about my life back home, I shared the same language, Spanish, with the people around me. However, I had another language which was communicating through art. I was always making things, especially from paper. I was constantly drawing on whatever scrap paper was readily available to me, even napkins at a restaurant. I would be hanging out with my friends in a cafe having ice cream and would start drawing. If I didn’t have a pen or pencil then I would tear the paper or napkin and make it into a flower to give to a friend. Things like that were small ways I expressed my feelings to those around me.
I decided to follow in the footsteps of the artists I most admired move abroad to study art. It was my dream to learn and to study outside of the country. I began applying to different schools and received a scholarship to study Graphic Design at the Art Institute of Atlanta. Although my no one in my family has an artistic background they were all supportive of my decision to pursue my passion.
RIGBY INK- After receiving your degree in Graphic Design from the Art Institute you decided to earn your MFA from SCAD. Tell me about why that was important to you.
LR- At the time when I decided to enroll at SCAD, the school was very new to Atlanta. I had seen photos of the campus and facilities online and was eager to learn more. As I toured the buildings I thought that everything was incredibly well designed. Walking into the studios was a powerful experience for me. I was overwhelmed and excited for the opportunity to create in a space like that. The environment that SCAD creates jumpstarts your creativity just by being present.
After I met with the professors and had a few conversations with them, I immediately knew I had to enroll. I knew that there were so many techniques and experiences that I could soak up from the teachers and school. I ended up studying Printmaking which fit right into my love of paper.
RIGBY INK- I feel like graphic design provides you with an opportunity to create the visual of what you like to do, but it excludes the most fun element, the paper, that physical thing that you enjoy creating with your hands.
LR - Before earning my MFA I had no idea that printmaking existed. I didn’t even know the word for printmaking in Spanish so I couldn’t explain to my parents what I was studying. It was quite funny because initially when I tried to explain to them what I was studying they thought I was learning how to design tee shirts. There is so much to the process of printmaking and at that time I myself knew nothing about it. I needed that education.
RIGBY INK- What were your initial reactions when you first arrived in Atlanta? How was the transition of learning a new culture and language?
LR- When I first arrived to Atlanta I was only 16 years old and quickly began college. I recall I was amazed by everything I saw and I was very curious about my surroundings. The trees, the light, the clouds. Even the way I saw people interact with one another and the speed of the city. I found all of those those new things in my life inspiring.
In a sense when you leave your community and your culture, you sort of erase your identity entirely because you lose your language and you lose the familiarity of your environment. Back home I could introduce myself to someone in the city and immediately they would know my grandfather or another family member. When I moved to Atlanta I only carried with me a small backpack and one towel. Before I left Caracas, my mom suggested that I should pack a pillow with me, but I remember telling her that a towel would be easier to roll up and could also serve as a pillow if needed. Naturally, the towel was pink. Despite the challenges coming to Atlanta felt like a huge opportunity and a blank canvas to start my life. I was so eager and prepared to give everything I had over to art.
RIGBY INK- I don’t think that there is enough credit given to people who immigrate to another country, especially those coming to the USA. As Americans speaking English, we have a luxury that most people in the world will be able to communicate with us, however, that's not the case for people coming here. Challenges aside, I do believe that traveling allows you to learn about yourself and in a way gives you the freedom to be who you want to be.
LR- It's both exciting and terrifying to live in a new country. For example, I didn’t know even know that 911 existed or how to get help in an emergency. It's those little things that you experience that the feeling of being a foreigner manifests itself. I’ve learned to be patient and be open to experiencing a new culture.
As far as my career as an artist there have been other challenges like, I can’t just be an artist. There are people that want to put labels on me or put me inside of a stereotypical box whether that's based on my gender or ethnicity. Of course, those experiences happened back home in my own country, but it happens on a different level when you’re outside of your home country. I do my best not to allow those situations to influence my work and avoid any box someone may try to place me in.
RIGBY INK- In regards to your earlier work you’ve said that you were inspired by the human body and images from your dad's medical books. How have you transitioned to abstract pattern making and the repetitions we see in the work you’re creating today?
LR- In the beginning, my work was inspired by images of the human body which took the shape of abstract etchings and cuttings. Slowly that moved into creating silhouettes and then more geometrical abstractions. Early on I was figuring out the essence of what I was creating. Each body of work inspired the next and then the next. My work in a way was and continues to be a dialogue within itself and I’m just there to listen and try to facilitate the conversation. I’m pushing the work while also creating something that is visually interesting. I’m not always successful, but I continue to explore that process in my work.
When I stopped to consider why I was inspired to work in that way I realized that it was the movement, the twisting, the bending, and the rhythm. It is the quality of being alive that I find so interesting. These days I have dropped all other imagery that I was using for inspiration and I work intuitively listening to what the paper is trying to communicate.
RIGBY INK- What do you think has drawn you to this work? You've been doing it for quite a while now, but what keeps you coming back?
LR- My passion for art is what keeps me coming back. It is the form in which I connect with people in the world. It allows me to understand my thoughts and feelings. I may be pondering over a philosophical idea, but until I’m actually making work for people to see, I can’t start the conversation. My work gives me the ability to express my ideas and feelings. For other people, communicating may be having a coffee or a beer with a friend to discuss ideas, but my method is through art. It is a way for me to feel free and it gives me a voice with perspective.
RIGBY INK- You've had some amazing partnerships with companies like Coca Cola and the High Museum. We live in a climate where gender equality in the workforce is constantly a topic of discussion. Have you had to navigate those issues in your career?
LR- There have been a lot of great people that have helped me along the path of my career both male and female. If it weren’t for those people willing to support me and provide me with an opportunity I don’t think I could have gotten to the place where I am on my own. I’m constantly inspired by the art lovers in this community. People have shown me their support through buying my work, but also things like forwarding me an email to apply to a show or an artists grant.
RIGBY INK- You mentioned earlier how people try to place you inside of a box whether that’s labeling you as a female artist or Venezuelan artist. What do you want people to know of you the artist?
LR- I really appreciate this question because often times I don’t have the opportunity to get away from the labels. I would like people to approach me as an artist. I want to be known more for my art and to be supported because what I’m creating is a moving experience for the viewer. It goes without saying that I love my country of Venezuela and I love my identity. I also love the color pink, but I love it because when I see it I feel freedom. To me, the color pink is the creativity of passion and playfulness. I think back to when I came to the states and brought with me that pink towel. The color was powerful to me and originated in my work at that pivotal moment in my life. I do identify myself as female, but that has nothing to do with the choices I make in my artwork.
I understand it is a fragile space to live a creative life and to be successful supporting yourself through your work. I find that I identify with many groups of people whether that's minorities or other women. Also, I feel so connected to the people here in Atlanta because I they have done so much for me. Yes, there are more male artists dominating the field, but so many of those male artists have supported me. I feel that it's important for me to stand behind everyone in this community that is doing something good for art in a positive way. At the end of the day I hope to be known for the work I’m creating.
To view more work by Lucha Rodriquez visit her online at:
Upcoming shows and exhibitions:
Kendall College of Art and Design Grand Rapids, MI -February. 19th, 2019 – March 26th, 2019
Hathaway Contemporary Gallery -EngageMINT Auction- March 9th, 2019
Lyndon House Arts Center, Athens, Georgia- June 1st, 2019 – July 27th, 2019
Kai Lin Art Gallery -August 2nd , 2019
Words Aileen Farshi
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.