“As long as I can remember,” says artist Rosalyn Myles, “I have been interested in working with rich textures and bits of pieces of history.” She put this affinity to good use after her MFA from California College of the Arts in Oakland, with extensive career experience in all manner of set and interior design work, while this love of materiality continued in discourse with her art practice. Using found and inherited objects as well as text, photography and strategies of assemblage and installation art, Myles creates experiential narratives that often key off her own personal history while also speaking to larger societal dynamics around race, gender and justice. Her current exhibition — a mixed media investigation into the biography of her own family story and in a way, of America’s — is on view at Craft Contemporary.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
ROSALYN MYLES: I knew I was an artist when I was seven years old. I made movies with my dolls and my Sesame Street puppets. I would use my Polaroid snapshots to tell stories. I also made lots of dioramas that had nothing to do with my school assignments.
What is your short answer when people ask what your work is about?
When people ask about my artwork I tell them that I am telling stories. Visual accounts of interesting or important moments that have happened to me or others in my community. These stories are expressed by what some used to refer to as women’s work — sewing, scrapbooking, cooking, knitting, weaving etc. Women rock and during famine and war, weddings and wakes, women all over the world hold their families and communities together. I love working with my hands and expressing myself using fabric, paper, wood, food, photography and film. I am a mixed media artist.
Why do you live in L.A. and not elsewhere?
I am a native of Los Angeles. I have always loved my home and this state. California has beautiful weather, the oceans, the deserts, the mountains, what’s not to love? I do travel as often as I can, I’d like to see the world but I think I’ll ultimately come back home. I understand and appreciate our political atmosphere.
What is your current show or project?
My most current show is up at Craft Contemporary on Wilshire — an homage to the life of Daisy Lee Hightower. This was such a great opportunity for me because I got to use the big street-facing window and the two featured artists are absolutely amazing. My piece there is a timeline of my grandmother’s life in 3D. I made a tablecloth with different fabric swatches that represent moments in time. The cloth rests on a table that has six different legs spanning six different eras. Above the table fly bits and pieces of architectural elements — ceiling tile, wallpaper, a shutter, a beaded curtain — all changing over the years and helping to tell her story.
My grandmother’s story shares elements with many other black American women who were born in the south and came of age during the depression, floods and Jim Crow. She was not a famous writer or political trailblazer, she was an “everywoman” who lived her life and did work she had to do for her family’s survival, for her survival. She was awesome. I am in awe of her strength and her ability to love.
What artists living or dead would you like to show with?
All three Saar women, Liza Lou, Mark Bradford, Jenny Hacker, and of course Ai Weiwei; Romare Bearden, Robert Rauschenberg, Frida Kahlo, Giorgio Morandi, Andy Warhol, John Outterbridge and Noah Purifoy.