Carla Jay Harris is equally driven by research and materiality, as she builds complex mixed media images and objects on the foundations of painstaking historical deep dives into personal and geopolitical events. Across photography, collage, drawing, and environmental installation, Harris delicately blurs the boundaries of space and time to highlight ancestral rhymes and the follow-on effects of history. Part of her practice involves literal place-making, as she incorporates her juxtapositions of archival and original images with pattern, portrait, and talisman into rooms that ideally function as social gathering points where the conversations sparked in the work can continue in the present.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
CARLA JAY HARRIS: I feel like I’ve always known that I was an artist. I come from an artistic family where culture and creativity were always front and center. I think it just took time, experience and maturity for me to feel comfortable committing to art full time.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work is about my life. With my art I document what I am thinking, feeling, and seeing all around me.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I did go to grad school. I received my MFA from UCLA in 2015. I felt it was an important step because I did not study art in undergrad. Art is a second career for me. My Bachelor’s degree is in commerce. The MFA allowed me to dedicate 2-3 year exclusively to my art practice. It also filled in a lot of gaps in my art knowledge, vocabulary, etc.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I moved out to L.A. for grad school in 2013. It took awhile for me to get used to this city. However, it’s really grown on me over the years. I really enjoy the aesthetic of the city — the newness and diversity of L.A. really appeals to me as an artist. It also helps that I have family close by. My sister and several members of my mother’s family are all within a short drive.
When was your first show?
My first show was at a pop-up space called Albert Chau, Brooklyn 2011. I lived and studied in NYC for about five years before moving out to L.A.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
My work Bitter Earth is currently included in a show at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery called ARCHIVE MACHINES. The show gathers artworks in an arc of four sections that will explicitly explore the activities of: Revisioning, Resisting, Rewiring, and Relating. These sections are a means to critically query the modalities behind the construction and circulation of narratives. My work is part of Relating and will be on view October 1 – 30. I’m also working on a solo show that will be on view at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles in Spring/Summer 2021.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
No. I have a hard time concentrating with any sort of background noise — music, TV, etc., just ends up being a distraction. That’s one of the reasons I mostly work out of my home and not an artist’s studio.
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