Now Featuring Cybele Lyle

Cybele Lyle gently prods the spaces that surround her – the walls, the horizon, the surface of the sea – shifting them until they open into exhilarating, destabilizing alternate environments.  Focusing on the places she finds herself, Lyle’s collages, sculptures and video installations don’t offer escape into another reality, but a shift in perspective that illuminates what already surrounds us.

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MH: Can you introduce what you do to blog readers?  There’s quite a range, and you work from intimate collages to immersive installations.

CL: Different media allow me to approach my subject with different limitations as well as new dimensions. Recently, I have been drawn to the relationship between flat, 2-dimensional planes and the 3-dimensional space that exists behind and in front of that plane. In my work, behind the 2-d plane often is the world of projected video, and physical space is potentially sculptural. These are things I’m working on now. So in some ways the intimate collages and the immersive installations are all exploring the same things just with different boundaries.

MH: One gradual impression I’ve been getting is that your work is about planes — the solid, unremarkable surfaces of everyday life — gently doing something unexpected.  This happens your collages as two disparate grounds unite by virtue of converging at the same horizon; it also happens in Space Shuttle, where a video of the straight shot of liftoff appears to bounce like a pinball in the corner where it’s projected. I know you explicitly take architecture as one of your subjects, but can you talk about how these things then begin to bleed into other spaces, like landscape and light?

CL: Architecture is a natural structure for these explorations. My relationship to architecture goes back so far in my life, that it’s sometimes hard to know how much it has led to my other interests in art or the other way around.

I also have a long history with landscape and the natural environment, but for most of my life stayed away from it in terms of artistic exploration. Landscape combined with photography has such a loaded history, that I wasn’t sure how to even approach it. Just in the past couple years, I became interested in approaching it through architecture. Landscape became accessible content to me for the first time. It became clear to me that the language of architecture (the walls, the structures, the history) could be extended beyond the physical buildings to talk about the natural environment as well. I don’t know why it took so long to really understand that architecture isn’t just architecture and landscape isn’t just landscape.

And as far as light, it is something I love to work with. Light is integral to architecture and its manipulation, but also integral to photography and video – particularly projected video. In some ways working with light is about pleasure, the way working with geometry can be. They are formal elements that excite me and make me want to move further into a space.

MH: Your work evokes the concept of translation as you shift spatial quotations from one location into an entirely new site and meaning is gained and lost. How much do other disciplines inform your work?

CL: I’ve always been drawn to other disciplines as source for my work. I don’t like existing within a single circle. I never felt like an artist’s artist, which is probably why it took me awhile to embrace this path. I like learning about how musicians, writers, scientists, architects, psychologists etc approach work and thinking and letting that into my art practice as much as and sometimes more than other artists.

MH: Can you talk about architecture that’s had a significant influence on you, and how?  I’m interested in the process of how you began to work with it, as some of you collages feel quite generalized, and then other work incorporates the gallery architecture, and source material from other spaces.

CL: The influence is much more personal and emotional and less about certain, specific buildings.  My dad was a landscape architect and an architect. I think the influence is much more about values I was taught about how space is used and designed and what its relationship is to its surrounding landscape. I was raised with a strong value system around architecture – that it should not overpower the natural environment, but that it should respond and relate to it. Also that we should have a minimal impact on the environment – or more specifically, that we should acknowledge the impact that we do have and that architecture should be to designed in a way that productively contributes to natural cycles of using resources.

Japanese architecture and landscape architecture, as well as architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Harwell Harris were very present as examples of successful integrations of the relationship between structures and the outdoors. My dad’s work and then Japanese architecture and landscape architecture have had the biggest influence on me. That is largely due to the symbiotic relationship between the buildings and their surroundings.

As much as anything, my work has been a way of exploring my own interests. When I first began to work with architecture, I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing – it started out as channeling my dad after he had passed away. I was painting and I was just trying to connect to him. It wasn’t specifically architecture – it was very abstract lines, but it was also clear that that was the language I knew subconsciously from my childhood. My work has become more and more specifically architectural and strangely, the more architectural it becomes, the more it is about me and understanding what it means to me it becomes less and less about my dad.

In many ways I’m learning through my work what I’m interested in –I think that’s why it sometimes seems more generalized – it’s an exploration. Right now I’m focused on the very basics – what makes walls, walls and windows, windows. How much can they be pushed to do new things but still do what they do? That’s the beauty of art, is that it’s not architecture – and that’s what I’m interested in. I don’t want to be an architect – I want to push the rules of other media – video, projection, photography, sculpture, drawing, installation… in order to understand the language of architecture and to challenge and disrupt its sense of absoluteness and permanence.

MH: You write in the statement on your website “The spaces I create –queer, safe, architectural and emotional – form a critically reconstructed mirror of reality, an alternative environment in which all forms of intimacy are allowed to be visible.” I’m curious about a part of this, the word “safe,” because your work is inviting but also a little destabilizing, not just spatially, but also emotionally.  There’s a feeling in the collages that they’re beckoning a viewer into a space where the ground might fall away, or flip in its axis.  It’s always nice to feel an artist consciously invest generosity in work, but how do you think that sits with the sense of flux?

CL: To me what makes the work queer and safe is in the act of cutting the images and reorienting them – taking away the power of their being closed spaces created by someone else, permanent, heavy and loaded with history, and making them movable and open. Once a building has been pulled apart and assigned new meaning, it takes away the sense of its absoluteness. What makes them safe spaces is that they aren’t owned by someone else anymore. It creates a place where the old rules of architecture no longer apply – there’s a new set of rules, based on the premise of changeability and impermanence which may seem unsettling in some ways, but also is free and open and not restrictive.

MH: What kinds of photographic images do you work from?  Do you shoot your own images or are they found?  Either way, when you set out to work on a collage, how do you look for images?

CL: The images are all my own. They are photographs I’ve taken from my everyday life. I’ve always taken lots of photographs – snapshots – just as a record of my life, a memory helper (I have a terrible memory). The collages influence the photos I take in the sense that I start to notice new things and become interested in new things and start to photograph with new ways of thinking in my head from the collages. That said, I don’t spend too much time thinking about what I’m going to photograph. I generally just photograph whatever interests me at the time – and then I edit and make decisions about collages later.

I don’t usually go to a place to take photographs for my collages. That’s not my interest. My interest is in my life as I’m living it – what’s around me, what my life looks like at any given time. Many of the collages I did recently were from when I had a studio at the Headlands – that’s where I was and that’s what I was photographing, because it’s beautiful and because it’s what my life looked like at that time. I’m much more interested in the day to day than the iconic. That’s true with architecture as well.

MH: Not too long ago you relocated to the Bay Area from New York.  How has it been to be on the West Coast?  The sense of light out here seems to subtly suit your work.

CL: I love the west coast. I grew up in Pasadena and I lived in San Francisco for nine years before moving to New York. I love New York, too. They’re very different, complimentary places. Even though I’ve spent so much time here, going away and coming back has made me see it with new eyes. The light feels very fresh. I feel like something new is happening for me with my work and maybe it’s the light, but whatever it is, it feels good here.

My collages started after I moved back to SF. When I moved here I needed to change my work; what I was doing before no longer made sense.  It was a huge transition for me and when looking at all my photos, which is usually a starting part for a lot of my work, I found they all had meaning that pulled me back to New York instead of connecting to here. But I hadn’t been here long enough to have photos of my life here, so I needed to change the meaning of the photos I already had and create space for new meanings. So I started cutting them apart and reconstructing them into new images. That process and work led to new discoveries and interests as I started getting drawn into the architecture of the spaces and also started having new images of my life here to draw on.

MH: What kind of projects do you have coming up?

CL: I have a break from projects right now and am enjoying it immensely. I like to have lots of time in my studio to explore and experiment and get grounded into new work without deadline pressure. Until that gets old, of course, at which point I might be dying for a deadline.


1 Nancy LyleNo Gravatar { 04.02.12 at 10:35 pm }

This interview is an incredible window into Cybele’s artistic “processing”. I am not an artist and much of her perspective escapes my limited vision. I am an avid fan, however, and so appreciate the insight offered by your publication. You ask just the right questions to allow me into this wonderful world of shapes and space as seen through the eyes of this talented and insightful young artist. Thank you.

2 Queer Time and Architecture: Embodied Memory in Cybele Lyle’s Shifting Spaces « levitica neue { 12.24.12 at 2:24 am }

[...] Maggie Haas, “Now Featuring Cybele Lyle,” Little Paper Planes, April 2, 2012. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tags: 2 x 2 Solos, Cybele [...]

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