Participants: Lance Pufahl (LP) and Sherèe Lutz (SL)
Place: River Market, Kansas City
SL: I feel that an underlying thread in this body of work is its surrealist underpinnings, ranging from heightened color palette, close or unusual cropping, imaginary landscapes, out of place objects etc. Would you be able to expand upon this “other” world quality to your work?
LP: I’ve never really given my work a designated title. In some ways I don’t even feel as though I can title myself as an artist yet. I do agree with the Surrealist tendencies. My first aim is to catch the viewer’s eye, and then insert something unusual to make them keep thinking about the work. I always want people to keep looking, not simply in passing glances. I paint things I am interested in and then insert an out-of-the ordinary element. From there I leave the interpretation open to the viewer—he/she can then invent his/her own narrative.
In terms of visual style I am informed by a variety of different sources. For an example, right out of undergrad at K-State I worked at Thread, a t-shirt screen-printing shop in Manhattan, KS, which was working in a very hard-edged graphic style. The letters were all clean lines, color and vector style graphic design. Even the 3-dimensional quality was done in solid blocks just in a different color. Also, at that point I got very interested at looking at graffiti and street art. Some artists in particular I was looking at were Above, Riff Raff who has a piece in the Crossroads.
Interestingly, up until that point, I rarely worked in color, doing mainly pencil and ink sketches. But then slowly, the place I lived in became covered in my personal graffiti; in fact, we put up extra drywall in the basement for me to paint. We removed when we left!
SL: You seem to have interest in particular aspects of the human body, specifically hands and mouths. Care to expand on that?
LP: Well my recent show was titled Body of Thought so most of the work deals with a single aspect of the human form. The hand works stem mainly from my lifetime study of my own hands. As a kid, when you are looking for an object to draw, your hands are ideal as they are first, accessible at all times, but then they also allow for manipulation. You can work through so many different angles, light/shadow, texture, etc. it is challenging because it is always different.
The first lip painting I did was about four or five years ago. Artistically, the lip has so many connotations from being sexy, to sinister, to happy etc. The mouth in general contains so much detail and variety. I started looking specifically at photography of work done by make-up artists that I would find on Instagram. So similarly, I started experimenting with color and texture: matte, glossy, natural color to unnatural.
I also had a color and ink work of pieces of bone that I included in the exhibition. Similarly to hands and fingerprints, not two bones are the same and they have such interesting angles.
SL: So what additionally informs your work? Are you looking at other artists in particular? Or more often everyday life?
LP: I discovered Jeremy Fish while in college and have looked at a lot of his stuff through the years. I take a lot of inspiration walks around the city. On some occasions this is where I have found discarded wood and things for my panels that I work with. I also am constantly thinking through a photographic lens, constructing interesting angles in my daily surroundings.
SL: In your artist statement, you mention taking simple subject matters and making them more dynamic, how do you go about doing that?
LP: I’m pretty open. Again, I want my viewer to bring his/her own experiences to the table. It seems that in this series, the piece that received the most personal reactions is the floating island. For some it is emblematic of heaven, for others the color reminds them of hell. I heard someone say it brought about the sense of isolation.SL: Did anyone bring up Avatar?
LP: Many people have brought up Avatar! The crazy thing is, I have never actually seen that movie. And now I almost have to make a point of not seeing it!
Another work that sparks a lot of reaction is the lip painting on three panels. When I added the color drip coming out of the mouth, I decided to make it blue because it seemed more thought provoking.
SL: You work as a graphic designer as well. The flat, pop-art quality of your style is particularly strong. Do you feel that your graphic design work has influenced your painting?
LP: I think that both my graphic design and painting work in tandem. They simultaneously inform each other and I try to keep progressing in both. It is a kind of concurrent forward motion.
SL: Can you describe your process?
LP: So far, I have been working mainly in acrylics, but am very interested in branching out. I’ve recently also been getting into watercolor as in. I worked for the first time in oil for a work that depicts a bird and teeth. I’ve also toyed with the idea of getting back to sketching in pencil and ink.
Before I start, I do a lot of looking–research online. When I’m actually painting, I bring in the photographs and images into the space then paint directly on the canvas or panel. I don’t usually do any underdrawing, I simply grid out the painting and work directly onto the surface.
SL: What do you listen to while you paint?
LP: I really listen to two things: either David Gray or something I can dance to. Just depends on my mood.