Interview with Spenser Little for ‘Illumination Devices’

Spenser Little’s ‘Illumination Devices‘ at MOAH Cedar presented in collaboration with Thinkspace Projects is currently on view and available to enjoy from the comfort at your home through a video, photo, or virtual tour.

Little is a self-taught artist who has been bending wire and carving wood for almost 20 years, allowing his creativity to morph into sculptures and images that range from simple wordplay to complex portraits.

To celebrate the opening of ‘Illumination Devices,’ our interview with Spenser Little discusses misconceptions, creative process, and his talent for satire.

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

SL: My background in the arts can’t be talked about without discussing my parents’ influence on my life. My father was a master metal fabricator, mechanical engineer, and all-around tinkerer. My mother was an English professor and a lover of the drunk Irish classics, mainly James Joyce. So my childhood was filled with critical analysis mixed with an engineer’s outlook to the manipulation of elements. Other then my parents’ influence, which was huge, I have had zero training and I am a high school drop out never returning to academia after the age of 15. 

SH: The pieces in this exhibition represent the layers we develop throughout our lives, and what we show or hide from people. What do you think is an assumption or misinterpretation of one of your outer layers? And what is a layer of yourself that you most enjoy sharing with people (outside of your work)?

SL: People often think I’m angry. I have a sincere case of resting bitch face. And many times when I’m daydreaming or calculating future ideas people will ask me ‘are you ok?’ ‘Everything all right?’ when I am perfectly happy and just thinking!

SH: How long did it take you to create the pieces for Illumination Devices? Do you work on multiple pieces at once, or are you a one sculpture at a time kind of man?

SL: I worked on the pieces for Illumination Devices on and off for a year, split up by traveling for art exhibitions and festivals.  In all, I would say I spent a solid six months building the show. I always work on multiple pieces at once. Helps my flow to bounce back and forth. Especially between mediums.

SH: What was the most challenging piece in the exhibition and why?

SL: By far the Inner Defense Mechanism Lamp! Fucking look at that thing!  Damn. So happy that war is over.

SH: What is your least and most favorite part of the creative process?

SL: My least favorite part of building the show was by far the bending, welding’ snd grinding of the leg bases of the two largest lamps. Each leg is about 8 hours of solid grinding to get the effect I want. Torture. My favorite part is wire bending. Comes the most naturally to me.

SH: Lewis Latimer, the inventor of the carbon filament for incandescent lightbulbs, rarely gets the notable credit he deserves in regards to his impact on modern electricity. Who is another inventor or creator you think deserves more credit and or notoriety?

SL: Hhhhmmmmm….. without using the internet I can’t think of any. So I have no honest answer to that other then I’m sure there are many!

SH: How would describe the power and importance of art / the arts in society to an alien who has just touched down to our planet?

SL: I would look that alien straight in the eye and say ‘welcome to earth friend, enjoy the food!’.

SH: You are a satirical mastermind and 2020 keeps rolling out moments ripe for humorous commentary, what would be your slogan for January 2020, July 2020, and December 2020.

SL: Satirical mastermind! Shit! Pressure is on!

January 2020 – I’ll have to steal Joni Mitchell’s line ‘you don’t know what you got till it’s gone’

July 2020 – where we going and why am I in this hand basket!

December 2020 – Being home is better than being in Miami surrounded by people grinding their teeth!

I feel I didn’t prove my slogan skills!

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – I know you’ve been very active locally in terms of marching/protesting and witnessed first-hand some intense police brutality. What is your approach to life during this time? What is your favorite local spot to pick up some take out?

SL: My approach to dealing with this hard time is what my approach to life always is. Make Art. I’d probably draw a picture in my blood as the state oppressors beat me to death!  Underbelly Ramen here in San Diego is delicious.

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