April 23, 2019

Five Questions with Amy M. Ho, Isaac Haney-Owens, and Lisa Swerling: Artists

Next up in our series of In/Visible Talks Salons is “Small Works Big Ideas”, a panel discussion with artists Isaac Haney-Owens, Amy M. Ho, and Lisa Swerling. In/Visible Talks’ Co-Founder Dava Guthmiller will moderate in the fabulous Creativity Explored (CE) space as we explore how working on an intimate scale can evoke big concepts.

The featured artists thrive on maximizing the minimum. For example, Lisa and CE artist José Nuñez recently collaborated on a diorama featuring Nunez’s artistic world, one he both imagines and creates. Their box, which will be on display that evening, features a miniature of Nuñez himself. Other small artworks that make big impacts will be also exhibited in the CE gallery, part of the Five and Two Others show.

As we got ready to meet them in person, we asked Lisa, Isaac and Amy how the creative process plays out in their lives. Their answers are below.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

Amy: “The creative process is part of my daily life. I need to allow myself a lot of time to just be, which then frees my mind up to be creative. When it’s time to make work or come up with ideas, I have to garden or cook to open up my mind.”  

How or where do you find inspiration?

Isaac: “I find my inspiration by taking pictures of old signs.”

Lisa: “Emotions, relationships, places, words and poetry, everyday things, objects big and small. I am intrigued by the conundrum of what it is to be a tiny human wandering around this big planet, feeling quite insignificant but very important at the same time. For me, the challenge is to connect these disparate elements in a meaningful and clear way, and then fit the result into a box.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

Lisa: “I never had a moment of realization, I just kept making art, mainly in my spare time. But it felt odd to call myself an artist. Being creative was a way of life rather than a career choice. Then, one day, I realized that it was more odd to not call myself an artist than to do so, and that was the day I became an artist.”

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

Amy: “I recently completed a series of projects done in collaboration with incarcerated artists. [Amy is an art instructor at San Quentin State Prison.] The project indirectly dealt with the very current issue of incarceration and thus inadvertently solicited opinions from lots of people. It was difficult for me to work in such a public way. At the end of the day, I had to remind myself that the heart of the project was the exchange of ideas between two artists.”

Isaac: “Being able to work more independently and relying on less help/guidance from my teacher.”

Who is one of your heroes and why?

Lisa: On a good day, I feel I am surrounded by heroes. There is something heroic in everyone if you’re looking in the right light. Today it’s actress Jameela Jamil, who is calling BS on the culture that causes, preys on, and amplifies women’s insecurities. She makes me sit straighter, and she stuns me with her wit, insight, and attitude.”

Isaac: “My mom is my heroine because she has taught me a lot, such as to follow my passion and never give up in life.”

Amy:  “David Attenborough. He has brought nature into the homes of ordinary people. He has inspired wonder and appreciation for animals and plants.”

BONUS ROUND: What is your favorite digital or nondigital tool?

Isaac: “Photoshop.”

Lisa: “I LOVE MY SCALPEL. There is nothing quite as reassuring as the clack of breaking out an old blade, the click of slotting in a new one, and then the smooth first cut. I still feel very grown up every time I use my scalpel.”

Amy: “Exacto!”