Briefly describe the work you do.
For ten years I have re-purposed plastic bottles and metal castoffs into playful sculptures and public art. I developed the “plastic bottle building-toy system,” a method similar to an Erector set or Lincoln logs. I fashion connectors and segments out of plastic bottles to make sculptures. I also collaborate with others to make outdoor installations from large accumulations of plastic bottles.
I recently started using another kind of plastic castoff – slide sleeve pages. Now that artists submit artwork digitally, many artists have piles of these. I am filling the pockets with paint chips and detritus, sewing some of them into “quilts” and leaving others as small works.
I primarily make sculpture, but I also curate, do performance art and make works on paper. Like the story of the 5 blind brothers who each describe an elephant according to the body part they touch, my different bodies of work appear distinct.
My recent video installation creates an environment that suggests a domestic grooming space and addresses growing older and facing mortality. It has both psychological weight and humor like my early feminist sculpture. These sculptures of cast cement and paper mache are female figures abstracted, altered, and reconstructed to express a complexity of associations.
My curatorial projects and public projects are exuberant. They become a focal point and touchstone in the community for which they were conceived.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up in a suburb of NYC on Long Island in an immaculate house. Sandwiched and over shadowed by boisterous siblings, I was drawn to quietly express myself by making things. As a toddler I made mud pies and later hid out in the basement melting crayons and playing with samples supplied by my paper salesman father. Early on I developed a vivid inner world, love of materials, and a habit of taking advantage of the resources on hand.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My art practice is an ongoing internal process of imagining and integrating ideas. Physically manifesting them and making things is done mostly in my studio, which at one time or another has been almost every room in my apartment. Now it’s the former master bedroom. Working at home has its distractions, but you can’t beat the convenience.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I never imagined skills, such as project management, space planning, and customer support, that I developed in my day jobs would be so useful to me as an artist.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I schedule blocks of studio time each week. Sometimes I work non-stop when creative vibrations take over or when I have a deadline.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work is constantly evolving as I respond to my circumstances, inner world and the world around me.
Five years ago I was working a day job and dealing with the care of my aging parents. In the public realm, I had the focus to curate “Upcycled,” artwork created out of plastic post-consumer waste. But waning psychic energy and time constraints guided me in my personal work to embark on a yearlong performance of simply letting my hair go gray.
Last year I became a full time artist, completed the video installation, “No More Dy(e)ing,” about the year I stopped dyeing my hair and co-curated “Time Frames Marking Time,” a large group show of artists who engage time as a palpable presence.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My late mentor, master mold maker Walt Zucker was a gentle soul who helped me balance flights of fancy with practicality. He taught me to patiently mix plaster of Paris to just the right consistency and to strategize and follow a step-by-step approach when faced with daunting challenges – and to enjoy the ride along the way.
Being centered in new age spirituality impacts my work as well. It helps me face the abyss of the unknown and to keep an open channel to positive energy.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I have always been an artist, but I never thought that I could only pursue that alone until recently. Along the way I have been a professional flower arranger, hospital aid, architectural interior designer, feminist newspaper co-founder, and project manager developing educational software.
I used to fantasize about being a police detective. I love being physically active. One year I ran the New York City marathon. I am interested in word play, psychology, neurology and patterns of organization.
New York City artist Barbara Lubliner moves fluidly between performance art, works on paper, and sculpture both large and small. Her art practice is a confluence of art and life, each twist and turn driven by the desire to use current life concerns as a springboard for creating thought provoking art that engages the public.
Lubliner has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions since the 1990s. The Brooklyn Museum’s online feminist art base includes Lubliner’s artwork inspired by her experiences giving birth and mothering. In recent years Lubliner’s public installations and studio work have involved re-purposing trash into playful art, shifting the focus from environmental blight to creative production. Her “File Cycle,” in Stamford, Connecticut’s 2007 Art in Public Places Exhibit and was featured in The New York Times article about the show.
Curatorial projects include “Upcycled,” artwork created out of plastic post-consumer waste; “Art & Alchemy,” featuring artists who transform found materials; “A Place At The Table,” a feminist performance event at the Brooklyn Museum; “Break the Mold: Honoring Walt Zucker;” “Time Frames Marking Time,” featuring work of artists who engage time as a palpable presence; and “Dog, Dog, Cat!” celebrating the bond humans share with all living creatures.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.