Known for surreal images centering nature and especially the world of water and ice, in a sense Luciana Abait’s true subject is humanity’s movement across and impact on the earth. Her striking photo-collages of icebergs being intruded upon by elements of industry and entertainment speak to the catastrophe of climate change and our lack of serious action on it, and also to a sense of disorientation and non-belonging with broader geopolitical resonance. Her recent video projection creating a cascading waterfall against a downtown building created an exuberant, joyful, participatory gathering point, while highlighting the preciousness and increasing rarity of clean water.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
LUCIANA ABAIT: I loved drawing, painting and building sculptures from an early age. I was fortunate to have an art teacher in high school who inspired me to pursue a career in fine arts.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
The intention of my work is to show the beauty and majestic quality of nature while reminding the public of its fragile existence. I also use nature as a metaphor to talk about immigration, displacement, adaptation and assimilation, which are universal issues that are also quite significant in our current moment.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
If I were not an artist, I would be some kind of designer. I would probably work in fashion, architecture or the graphic design world.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I did! I wanted to learn the full scope of possibilities within the art world. My training in drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking was very academic. Somehow or other, everything I learned in the different disciplines has informed my artwork throughout the years.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I feel Los Angeles is one of the epicenters of the world. The creative energy that stems from tech companies, the entertainment and fashion industries, architects, designers, scholars, and the immense amount of artists who live in this city produce an environment that is uniquely stimulating. It is such a privilege to live in Los Angeles for which I am always thankful.
When was your first show?
My first solo show was at Jean Albano Gallery in Chicago in 2001. The works that I exhibited showed surreal interior and outdoor landscapes with isolated elements from the human world. These acted as a metaphor for the presence and absence of humans. Those works still bear a common thread to the artwork that I am creating today. I will be forever thankful for the incredible opportunity this gallery gave me and that opened so many doors for my career.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I was recently part of LUMINEX in DTLA with my video installation Agua. This was a very unique outdoor art viewing event that gave me the opportunity to present my first large-scale video public art piece. I also currently have a solo show on view at LAX Airport called A Letter to the Future. The works in this exhibition raise awareness of environmental issues and the urgent need for corrective actions to halt global warming.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
I would love to exhibit my works with Giambattista Tiepolo, a Venetian artist from the 18th century. I have always been enthralled by the unique light and color in his murals and painted ceilings, and how he created “spatial illusions.”
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
I have a ritual when I step into my studio, even if it is only for 15 minutes. I turn on my FM radio from an AM/FM, CD player and double cassette system that I bought in Miami with the first sale of my artwork, at the end of the 90’s.
Website and social media handles, please!
Luciana Abait, 《Agua》
Address: 1025 Flower St