Words: Noel Paris
I have known Cody Lusby for quite some time. His friendly demeanor is infectious and his love of art is massive. I had the chance to sit and chat with Cody in his Long Beach studio and ask him some questions about his upcoming solo show at Design Matters Galley in Los Angeles which opens on May 11th.
NP: What drives you to go in the studio each day?
CL: There is something about just being in the studio that is amazing. The way it is set up is so relaxing and comfortable for me. I think that is the key. Instead of saying, what do I have to do today, I’m thinking, what do I want to do today. When I can just dive in and paint and forget about everything else in my life, it is perfect. It is like meditation.
NP: So having the proper environment is key?
CL: Yeah, I think that is key. I have to have it so it is set up for me. If it was just a garage that I was painting in, I wouldn’t feel that comfort and I wouldn’t be here all of the time. I work crazy hours in here so I need it to be a place where I can stay.
NP: What is it about the human figure that makes it such a huge part of your work?
CL: I think everybody relates to it because we are human beings. The figure tells the story. I could paint a bear or a wolf or something like that, but it is the human figure that challenges me.
NP: Is it the technical side of painting a figure that is important to you? Do you need to capture realism?
CL: I am trying to push the envelope and ask, “What is reality.” Everybody’s reality is going to be different because we are vessels. Mine is different because it is coming out of me.
NP: Do you listen to music at all when you paint and it is a large part of the process?
CL: Yes, there is always music until I get sick of it and then I switch over to NPR. If I put on talk radio, all of a sudden I listen to what they are saying and the conversations that they are having. I forget about where I am and I just paint. It is weird; the painting will then solve itself in front of me, which is awesome.
NP: When you listen to dialog, does it ever weave it’s way into your concepts?
CL: Not the work I am specifically working on at that moment, but it does plant a seed that will grow into something later.
NP: So whether it is conscious or not, ultimately something you heard will spark a topic for a future piece.
NP: What do you like least about the “art world?”
CL: I feel it is all about who you know and not about the art itself and that pisses me off. The art world is not run by artists and its peers, it is run by the people that have the money. It is like any other corporation. Of course not all of the galleries are like that, but some don’t know anything about art, they just know about running a gallery. They are told what is selling or not selling rather than who is making interesting stuff and wanting to show it.
NP: Is there a line that you won’t cross when it comes to your work?
CL: I don’t think that there is any subject matter that is taboo. I want people to think about a cross between a beautiful painting and a conceptual thought and the mix of the two.
NP: I guess I am asking, if somebody came to you and said, “I want you to do a painting for me; here are the parameters.” Would that be okay?
CP: I may not sign my name to it.
NP: Well then that must be the line that you won’t cross because your work is your name. Listen, we both know that being a painter can be a tough life, what makes the struggle worth it for you.
CL: The independence of being who I am and doing the things that I want to do. Of course there are days when you feel overwhelmed with the struggle, but I will pull myself away and say, “ This is what I have chosen to do.” I mean, the struggle is constant whether you are successful or not.
NP: Has technology and social media hurt or helped today’s artist?
CL: It has helped. I used to have to physically send my work to people to check out, now I take a photo, post it and instantly people can see it. I will see somebody that I haven’t seen in a long time, and because of Facebook they will say, “Cody, I don’t have to ask you what you have been doing.” It is interesting; they don’t feel like I haven’t talked to them forever, they are already in the conversation.
NP: If a kid came to you and asked if he or she should attend art school, that would you tell them?
CL: I would look at their devotion and tell them; “This is not an easy path.”
NP: So is art school unnecessary?
CL: No, it made a lot of things understandable for me. I don’t think you have to have it (art degree) but it will make you see the world in a much different way.
NP: Is it beneficial because you learn technique or because you are having dialog with other artists? Is it just to get a degree?
CL: I don’t think the degree helped me at all. But, mingling and talking with artists as well as learning technique was important. Understanding how to see things and break everything down to form and structure and composition helps one from being limited to what they can do.
NP: Let’s talk about your new series. You are dealing with some intense imagery. You are showing people vomiting butterflies. Can you elaborate on this concept?
CL: After graduating from college, I did a painting of myself vomiting up butterflies that I really loved. It was about the fear of showing my work, the fear of being an artist and putting myself out there. It was about anxiety, which everybody suffers from at some level. It is about letting go of that anxiety. It is a topic that I wanted to revisit on a much more evolved level.
NP: You are using different people as models for the pieces, but really they are about you and letting the butterflies, which represent the anxiety out of your body.
CL: Yes, the people in the paintings are friends of mine, and I was going to include things that they are worried about, but I realized that anxiety could be anything. It is all relative. The images can suggest several things.
NP: Are all of the butterfly images consciously chosen for their subject matter or are they just exciting images that take on a deeper meaning after the fact?
CL: When I first look for the images that will be cut out to form a butterfly shape, I am more concerned with the composition and how it fits in that shape. At this point they are not being chosen for a particular piece. I will cut out a bunch of butterfly shapes and have them ready. Once I start working on a painting, I will go through the stack and find the images that relate to that piece.
NP: I am starting to see that a lack of definition or blurriness is becoming a constant theme in your work as well.
CL: Well, we not static. We are usually in motion.
NP: But also everything is accelerated today. From the way we gain information to the way we can contact somebody at a moments notice. We live in blurry times.
CL: Maybe it is these blurry times that are speaking through me.