Briefly describe the work you do.
My name is Laci Coppins and I am a photographic, mixed media, and installation artist working primarily with themes related to faith, family, and intergenerational connections.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I received my first camera when I was about seven from my grandmother. My education and background is primarily in the field of literacy and education. While always creating, the notion to pursue art as an option of study did not emerge until adulthood. Choosing to leave my position as an elementary school principal, I moved to Florence, Italy for about a year to formally study art. This experience has greatly influenced my overall determination to continue with my career in the arts.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
In the past I have shared large, warehouse style studio spaces with any where from four to 16 artists at one time. The benefits to a space like this are the inspiration and discussions that emerge when working around artists that have the same or a different medium. In addition, it is rare that everyone is in the space at the same time, so the chance encounters bring a social time to the space.
Currently, my studio is in my home. And while this does lend itself to toiling away alone, I find I am able to complete projects in a concentrated amount of time. Further, I invite other artists to join me for Creative Collective sessions periodically. The Creative Collective brings art making and social time together. Outside of these sessions, I make work independently in my studio space; although some larger pieces find themselves developed in other parts of my home.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
As an artist, you want to focus on making the work; however, you quickly realize it goes beyond this. At times, you feel like the Little Red Hen—make the work, market the work, show the work, sell the work and repeat. The challenge emerges when adding a full time job, family, other obligations, etc into the rotation. Being an artist is not for the lazy or weak at heart; you must have tenacity.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
The best time of the day for me to make art, is anytime of the day. I tend to find inspiration all around me and continuously take photos with my phone. The phone photos become a note or the start of a sketch for a larger idea. At times, I go through “creative bursts,” when I will work several nights in a row until the early morning; another benefit of having an at home studio. I work daily—studying, experimenting, editing, tweaking, reviewing artists’ opportunities, or simply cutting paper. For me, it is important to keep my hands busy.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
As a photographer, the process has changed over the years through the use of digital media. The same is true for me. Initially, I only worked in analogue processes, but as communal dark rooms became less available, I started experimenting with alternative processes and mixed materials. This led to text embedded in the image or as a part of the image. Further, I expanded the printing from solely photographic paper to hand made paper, plexiglass and mesh vinyl. I have moved from documentary style photography, to a more focused narrative style of showcasing the image. The loss of my maternal grandmother and father within a year of each other has had the largest impact upon my work to date. From this experience, I started working more with installation, but at times still including the use of text with my work and the photographic image. I continue to show case the photographic image in isolation; however, these images are now placed in conversation with installation and mixed media pieces.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Photographic Media reveals the universal understanding of one’s personal connections to life and loss. Family and my faith remain strong themes in my work and as so an influence in my work. Nevertheless, the losses of my grandmother and father within a year of each other have had the largest impact upon my work to date.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I am fortunate to work full time in the arts, not only as an artist, but also as a museum educator. Another possible career choice would be a writer (putting my BA in English to work), but considering this is a second career, I will stick with this one.
About Laci Coppins
Laci Coppins is a photographic, mixed media and installation artist working primarily with themes related to faith, family, and intergenerationa
l connections. Born in Tucson, Arizona she received her BA from Fisk University in English, a Post Baccalaureate in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Photography from Studio Art Centers International, and both a Masters and Doctorate in Education from Trevecca Nazarene University. In conjunction with special programs, Coppins has participated as a guest artist and lecturer with Alverno College, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Marquette University and Northwestern University. She was an artist in residence with REDLine, Milwaukee and has exhibited in multiple cities across the United States and Italy. Coppins’ work is in several public collections including Fisk University, REDLine, Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and numerous private collections.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.