An interview with Derek Weisberg

We’re excited to welcome back Oakland based artist Derek Weisberg this weekend. We’ll be showing three new sculptural works from Weisberg as part of our Annual Summer Group Show ‘Picks Of The Harvest: Culver City Art Walk’. This special exhibition opens this Sat, June 4th from 2-8PM during the annual Art Walk in Culver City. Check out full details on the show here and please swing through if you come through Culver City for the Art Walk this Sat. Please note the show will be on view through Sat, June 11th for those not able to make it by this Saturday.

To help welcome back Weisberg to Los Angeles we thought we’d catch up with him to see what he’s been up to recently and dig into what he’s got coming up in the near future.

Please talk a lil’ bit about your work and the main inspiration that fuels you to keep creating.

My work is about life, focusing on human emotions and how I process life as I experience and move through it. My work is very much rooted in existentialism and humanist concerns, but as I have experienced situations I can not explain and or have found difficult and complex; I have paired those earthly existentialist concerns with ideas of spirituality and the metaphysical. Specifically I have been drawn to questions about death and the afterlife. In pursuing these ideas I feel like I have been on a quest for truth, a quest I am nowhere near completing or finding an answer to. It will be my life’s pursuit I am sure. I understand there is a lot of art in the world, serving different ideas and functions, but I personally feel that the job of art is to try to answer questions we cannot answer; to talk about things that we can not put words to.

Also my dad told me this the other day, and I think that it sums up what I do very well, better then anything I could say: “Your creative process has been a channel for those feelings you hold deeply and has become a lasting expression and tribute to your relationship with people in your life”. Peter Weisberg.

When did you know you wanted to follow the path of being a full-time artist?

I pretty much always knew I wanted to be a full time artist (all though as a child architecture and anthropology interested me). At a point in high school I got diverted from the artist idea, I thought I wanted to make sculptures for Hollywood and movies, or apply my sculpting to an industry some how. In my summer between Junior and Senior year of high school I attended a summer school program, which was a complete submersion in art, after that program I said, nope, no way I can make work based on specs or someone else’s vision. I knew the only thing I could do was pursue my own work and expression.

What led you to clay as your main medium?

I started working in clay at age 7, I fell in love with the material then; I was too young to consciously realize it then, but I knew. And I have not put it down since. The material allows for so many outcomes. I appreciate the freedom clay allows, being additive and subtractive. When I’m working my hands are in the material, nothing in between, no brushes or chisels etc. I love that immediacy and directness. There are so many reasons I use clay, and It is hard to describe a love for a material, it is just something that you feel.

Have you ever created a piece and then fired it and had everything go wrong?

Not for a very long time. I know this material so so well, very little goes wrong these days. Which is sometimes disappointing, because there can be an excitement and learning in mistakes sometimes. The most that goes wrong these days, is my glazing is a little off, but in terms of sculpting and explosions in the kiln or anything like that, everything goes pretty much according to plan.

You often lend your talents to teaching and mentoring of young students, care to share a little about these endeavors?

I do enjoy teaching. I have taught all ages from kids, to college students to adults. In many ways teaching reinforces or forces you to really know your shit. And young people especially call it like they see it and will call you out on your BS if you don’t know your stuff or have your chops down. I appreciate that. It is also a beautiful experience to help people work through problems and watch them work through it to come up with solutions, and often solutions I would never come up with. It is also really great to be in a creative environment where everyone is trying to solve problems in different ways, I get new ideas for my own work all the time.

From your time at art school, name one thing you learned while there that has stuck with you to this day.

Oh man, what did I learn? I can’t really remember a specific thing at the moment. But what I would say and really realize and something that has stuck with me is that the most important thing in school is your peers. Faculty is important, facilities are nice to have, etc. but the other students is where it’s at. They are your community, your collaborators, your critics and supporters etc. Those communities and relationships are so important and will help you out, post school, and outside your studio more then anything I think.

What strikes you as the biggest difference between the LA and the Bay Area art scenes?

LA has really positioned itself to be a major city for art, It may not have taken the position of NY yet, but it is right there, the quality and kind of exhibitions and projects happening there far surpass the bay area (I really really hate to say that, but it’s the case). That is a major difference I see. Also the market is different, I think there are more young people building art collections and spending money on art in LA then in the Bay, where it is mostly older folks who buy art here, and then they only want to buy a certain type of work. Of course these are major generalizations, but I think for the most part fair. Also I have never lived in LA so it is a little hard for me to really compare.

If you had a day to show us around your hometown of Oakland, what would we do?

Man there is so much to do here. We could start in the morning, grab a nice cup of Joe, and one of the best scones you’ll ever have from Remedy coffee, right up the street from my spot. Come back to the studio, maybe hang there for a bit. Maybe go check out the Oakland Museum see an exhibition. Get lunch either at the famous Genova’s, really good Italian deli sandwiches, or go to the incredibly popular Bake Sale Betty’s and get an off the hook fried Chicken Sandwich and a cookie. Grab some bikes and ride around the city a little bit, head to the Uptown district and see some galleries. There are so many good restaurants, we would grab some dinner. Then hit either Commonwealth a little English Pub, maybe drink a Scotch Ale, or hit Beer Revolution where we could choose beer from 47 taps and over 500 bottles. Finally after closing down a bar, hit the 24 hour Colonial Donuts to satisfy my 32 sweet teeth.

What have you got coming up in terms of shows after your show with us?

After showing with Thinkspace, I am planning on some big life changes, mainly a relocation. So I am putting showing on the back burner for a little while, until I get settled. But I will have a brand new larger than life sculpture for Anno Domini’s ten year anniversary show, it is a show to keep your eyes peeled for, happening in Feb. 2012.

Describe your dream project if time and money were not issues.

I don’t really have a specific dream project in mind right now, but I would love to do several projects like: I would love to do a massive installation inside a really old Synagogue in Eastern Europe or maybe a project combining music and sculpture, working with a musician and creating songs that relate to sculpture and vice versa, put out a CD and book…Or possibly a life size sculpture for a public venue cast in bronze. I don’t know, those are a couple things I would like to do.

‘Picks Of The Harvest: Culver City Art Walk’
Annual Summer Group Show

Opening Reception: Saturday, June 4th 2-8PM

Featuring DJ Mr. NumerOnederful and live painting from John Park

(On view through June 11th)

Thinkspace / 6009 Washington Blvd. in Culver City / www.thinkspacegallery.com

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