Leah Thomason Bromberg visits Lucia Dill's Berkeley studio
Folding chairs don’t exactly sound inspiring or really deserving of any sort of dialogue. Nevertheless, they are everywhere and most specifically at every large gathering -- the miscellany of the chairs in church basements, the “fancier” white, plastic version at weddings, office meetings, gatherings in people’s homes when there aren’t enough regular chairs, endless critiques on cement floors within art school’s repeated painted white walls. I can hear the ding of two hitting each other as I try to carry as many chairs as possible in some small, personal celebration of my own bravada while my mom supervises the clean up in a church basement where men are supposed to move the heavy things. Yes. I know these chairs well.
A single folding chair leans against the wall of Lucia Dill’s Berkeley studio. Is this one of her models? She confesses that she doesn’t need the chair anymore to make her paintings. Lucia Dill has been making this work since her final year in California College of the Arts’ BFA program. I met her and her chairs when our work was paired together in an exhibition, and it was like finding a painting-sister.
These are the uncomfortable seats for gatherings like in her paintings that she considers family portraits. There’s a necessity to them, like the necessity of relationships in our lives. Lucia is a self-proclaimed introvert, and I imagine that experiencing so much presence in these chairs feels slightly less overwhelming. Initially the work seems to indicate an absence; but I find them to be more of a continuation of that presence. Someone was here, now they are gone; the chair remains. Then the presence can remain even beyond the chair as a painting. I’ve found the process of painting to be akin to spending time with a person--it’s spending time in a space that may be gone. It makes a singular moment continue.
The chairs have a certain quiet to them. It’s a relief to someone like me who’s an introvert -- that it’s a presence without the requirements of actual interaction. It’s a reminder that someone is there.
Lucia also includes tags with her paintings and has created several artists books. The repetition of the chairs, the long lines, and continuation in the books seems to point toward language. These pieces bridge painting with books: books hang on the walls as paintings, painting and printmaking find its way into books. One project, On the Line, is a series of long, power lines which operate almost as music staffs. The black and white images relate the power lines closely to the text Lucia wrote. In these books, the hand relates so closely to language: as writing, as art making, as holding a book.
The forms construct a sort of code. I’m left wondering what happened in the space. The chairs moved to create vestiges of interactions, and Lucia’s repetitive use of imagery highlights all their subtleties.
The code also finds itself in her palette. Lucia chooses the colors based on her own personal associations--soft navy, Cal colors for her grandmother, cool teal patterns that echo the plants she sees during the day. There’s a strong connection between her work and the everyday. Bits of papers end up in her work. Lucia tries to live sustainably, and sometimes even mixes colors on her panels within her painting. Some of her work then makes its way onto bags and coffee cup holders.
Right now she is working through her body of work for an exhibition featuring daily created work for fifty days. The repetition of the chairs makes them almost characters. Lucia likes to think of their positions as body language. As part of her practice, an intense investigation like this can make you feel like you’re trapped but also provide a sandbox for experimentation. Her previously established language allows for new experimentation. Their dark forms walk across her paintings almost like letters. Lucia has been sewing and collaging to add a new area to her work, fusing the soft, lyrical line of embroidery thread with the hard edges of cold metal chairs.
These functional chairs, endlessly repositioned in circles and rows and aisles, absorb our warmth, and then slowly cool the longer our absence. Lucia’s facture and her consistent return to these chairs similarly linger.