Artist of the Month: August 2018

Luc(e) Raesmith

Detail of Image Magpie : Text Magnet by Luc(e) Raesmith

Each month we choose one of the fantastic artists represented on our website to be our Artist of the Month.

This month it is Luc(e) Raesmith, a dedicated street-comber and bin-reclaimer of urban flotsam who creates recycling artworks in 2D and 3D forms. They describe the collage/assemblage pieces as reflecting their 'daily dance along the spectrums of mind and body (dis)abilities, Trans non-binary identity and Asperger-ness'.

Here we discover more about the about Luc(e)'s artistic journey.

Why did you start making art?

I always made art as a child, but then pretty much stopped after O’Level classes at school, other than creating occasional greetings cards for others and information posters’ graphic designs.  

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Relic

But in my twenties I began to experience extended periods of unemployment due to ‘breakdowns’ and took up adult education craft classes as therapeutic activity.

I would not receive diagnoses of my three ‘hidden conditions’ until much later: BiPolar Level II and Fibromyalgia Syndrome in my late forties, and Asperger’s Syndrome in mid-fifties.  But for 30 or so years creating artworks has kept me ‘sane through pain’, and in the last year I have consciously explored invisible disability through creativity with the Brighton-based organisation Root Experience.

How would you describe your pieces?

I think of myself as predominantly a creator of abstract 2D collages and 3D assemblages, but I surprise myself to see how many other figurative and graphics 2D pieces I do create.  

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Dome Pelicano

 I have only recently recognised myself as a photographic artist – now that I have over 43,000 phone camera images in my iPhoto library!  I create semi-abstract ‘fotomosaic_grids’ of images on my phone which I now show in the global gallery that is Instagram.

My larger collage and mobile-style hanging assemblage works tend to be one-offs, with an occasional duo or trio, in terms of theme or style, other than a deliberate series of collaged self-portraits from 2014-2015, created at art drop-in sessions - including ‘Image Magpie, Text Magnet’ shown as detail above.  They have in common creative recyling with ‘urban flotsam’, in that I make pieces from collected items: secondhand purchased, street- or beach-found; defunct domestic objects or commercial scrap materials. 

My works are usually mixed media – or mixed texture more precisely,  inclusive of text, and heavily in favour of plastics and metals and found images. I have made a few textile pieces – particularly when I volunteered in a scrapstore in Dartington, Devon.

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Time 4 Viewing

Are there any particular themes to your work?

I really only see recycling as the shared theme, but there are repetitions in my style(s) across the 2D and 3D – and photography – pieces.
Unexpectedly I had a solo show in Dartington’s Roundhouse Café for World Mental Health Day, 10.10.10.  I was at that date two years into my physiological transition as a genderqueer or transintersexual, non-binary person.  Seeing my work from over 15 years assembled together I was able to see the consistent repetition of grids patterns and circular motifs and my delight in juxtaposing contrary textures;  it felt, with new hindsight, that I had been unconsciously exploring my dual gender androgyny - or fe/maleness - through these archetypal linear, rectangular, rigid, yang or masculine repeat patterns and materials versus their flowing, circular, spiral, flexible, yin or feminine complements and counterparts.

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, The Jelly Shoe Hanging

Why do you like using found items in your creations?

My periods of unemployment have left me needing to create from ‘freebies’ or very cheap materials (but I do annually treat myself to traditional paints or pens when I have earned some monies as an artist).  But I am also definitely an Aspie collector: a magpie drawn to  colourful and shiny things that other  people would consider rubbish. Beach- or street-combing is a therapeutic activity when I’m wandering about on my own with my trolley, at the ready for any small or large ‘find’.

Also my whole lifestyle is based on recycling:  my clothes are 95% from charity shops, my studio-home furniture is all recycled – or assembled from wood and plastic offcuts and cardboard boxes.

What has been the best item you have found to date, and what artwork did it end up a part of?

I couldn’t narrow down my finds to a best item; I have a deep Aspie fondness for them all, but I have chosen to show here a piece entitled ‘Relic’ which came about from having acquired a tarnished Tala icing plunger and nozzles set – which were what I used to do some creative cake decorating in my late ‘60s childhood! 

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Sensing Red

Also in my mind are two items that waited at least 3 years to become integral to artworks: a defunct red yoyo with transparent plastic showing its internal computer board is now a part of ‘Someone’s Honey’, and a holographic Spiderman disk, from unknown source object, that is focal to ‘Differently Wired’, the third piece in my bathroom hangings triptych (both can be seen in my Outside In gallery space).  A rare find of charcoal grey fishing buoys ‘caught’ on a seaweed pile in Devon added to ‘Jelly Shoe’  - a beach flotsam hanging piece.

Does your artwork follow set processes or does it vary?

The process varies.  I have enjoyed attending drop-in sessions with two Brighton-based groups: Mindful Art and Creative Future in the last 4 years or more.  At these I’ll be creating a 2D piece under time pressure of a couple of hours each session - which is a very freeing process for me;  I’ll maybe embellish these pieces back at home with more solid objects or create a decorative recycled card or papier mache – or silicon iPad cover - frame for them. 

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Dead Lightbulb Chandelier’ fotomosaic_grid

Larger or more intricate collages and assemblages are made perhaps only every six or nine months, or over a year apart – when I want to create a specific piece for my home-studio, such as my three ‘Dead Lightbulb Chandelier’ lampshades (as in the fotomosaic_grid shown here).  I can maybe assemble such pieces in a few hours, or over a weekend, or more bit-by-bit over a few weeks, but the collecting of the items to make up such pieces may have gone on for several years.  Often, one item – such as the red yoyo or the Spiderman disc – will then ‘come forward’ as a focal object that kickstarts me into creative action and brings a whole piece together very organically, without any preplanning at a conscious level.

Over the last 8 years I have been on-and-off creating ‘mini artworks’: deliberate series of collage-assemblages known to me as ‘pin-ups, stick-ups, hang-ups and prop-ups’ based on recycling, respectively, vintage slide negative holders, plastic magnetic strip, mobile phone cases and data-storage Zip disks with crystal cases.

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Grandmother Board

Do you have any creative role models?

Not consciously; I have eclectic taste in art, so no doubt various styles and genres have rubbed off on me subliminally.  A few artists whom I admire spring to mind as possible influences:  Piet Mondrian for grids fascination; Jean Cocteau for line drawings; Frida Kahlo and Grayson Perry for text-inclusive & multi-images; Chris Ofili for vibrant, multi-textured works.

Like Frida, and perhaps also Grayson/Clare, my wardrobe is also my palette and my home-studio very much a 3D collage-assemblage in itself of domestic/office/creativity/dress artefacts all on show – not squirreled away in cupboards.  I was very glad to sell my ‘Homage to Frida Kahlo’ piece via the Outside In online shop to a school with young people who could appreciate this visual-tactile, multi-sensory piece.

What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?

Perhaps most I would like viewers to be inspired to see the beauty intrinsic in everyday, utilitarian objects and to be more creative recyclers too.  I’d be really happy if people were amused by my work, or enjoy the play of words and ideas – for I’m certainly most often creating lightheartedly, even if referencing challenging issues.

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Someone's Honey

I have called all of my creativity ‘Off the Trolley Productions’ – including my ‘Person is Not a Rude Word’ blog posts, prose-poetry writing, ‘fotomosaic_grids’, ‘fotobooks’ or ‘fotovideo’. That title is also a play on the words ‘off their trolley’: a phrase that implies mental imbalance or insanity; I hope the viewer realises that I prefer to celebrate ‘off the trolley-ness’ as eccentric, individual, imaginative, marvellous ‘unsanity’ – which I believe is a part of the philosophy of Outside In.

What has been the standout moment for you as an artist so far?

Again, I’m not good at pinpointing single events any more than best item or most influential creator.   Through Outside In I’ve enjoyed several standout moments, but it was definitely an honour to be selected as a group artist of the ‘Shifting the Margins’ collaborative exhibition, between Outside In and HOUSE visual arts branch of Brighton Festival, in 2015 at the Phoenix Gallery. 

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Homage to Frida Kahlo (sold)

To have my 2D self-portraits professionally mounted, box-framed and hung as a trio on a blank wall was a whole new experience for me!  The ‘Grandmother Board’ (seen above), that was also hung at the Phoenix, seems to resonate with many people:  it’s named for both the the electronics board and its non-computer components that were typical items in a Grandmother’s button box (as gleaned from my volunteering for fifteen years in an Oxfam shop, in the haberdashery and jewellery sections).

I appreciate having had group shows within Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre for Artists Open Houses, and presenting for Share Art both hand-created artworks and phone photography in collaboration with Outside In and Pallant House Gallery. 

I now enjoy meeting and working with other Outside In creators as the Artist Advisory Group to the charity’s Board of Trustees to assist in making Outside In as inclusive, accessible and expansive as it can be in moving forward.

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Two Faced Tea Cosy

I’m currently excited to have had a ‘fotomosaic_grid’ and ‘reflectie-selfie fotoportrait’ duo image selected to appear - as an A0 size print - in the Colour My World exhibition, curated by SEAS: Socially Engaged Art Salon, of international queer artists at Brighton’s BMECP Centre (and Jubilee Library) for Pride fortnight.  This will be my first photographic artwork shown in a non-virtual gallery space.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of?

Not easy for me to single one work out, but my ‘Two Faced Tea Cosy’ shown here has given a lot of viewers much pleasure when it has been exhibited – plus the desire to own it!  It took me many weeks and hours of work to rag rug this piece; it was prompted by a textile workshop at the Scrapstore and the remit was to use unusual materials - of which there was plenty of choice in the store’s many bins.  I fashioned the rectangles side on works by the artist, Hundertwasser: another of my unconscious influences no doubt!

Image: Luc(e) Raesmith, Made in China; Dead in Brighton

What are your hopes for the future?

I would like to take the Outside In Step-Up course for Workshop Leaders and extend my experiences of facilitating creative sessions for groups: introducing creative recycling and therapeutic, mindful arts play to both those who are established or those who do not consider themselves as artists.

As an ‘expert dabbler’ I’ll continue to explore more collage-assemblage combination work – as in this work-in-progress, ‘Time 4 Viewing’ detail image shown here.  I’m excited to explore new ways of digitally displaying my phone photography work, I am and interested in creating more installation-form work such as the ‘Sensing Red’ piece shown here which was part of Root Experience’s ‘Hidden Project’ exhibition in Brighton Dome gallery space during Disability Pride last July 2017.

My artist future lies with socially-engaged and community arts groups and events.  In these so-often depriving, marginalising, uncivil and non-sensical times, it seems really important to me to be part of the Arts creativity that makes humans civilised.  There is no limit to the local, creative recycling art that can affect global persons’ and the Earth’s well-being.