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.

Virtual Tour for Spenser Little’s ‘Illumination Devices’ at MOAH Cedar

We’re thrilled to share our virtual tour through Spenser Little’s ‘Illumination Devices’ at MOAH Cedar.

Visit for a self-guided tour experience through the museum.

Illumination Devices is presented in collaboration with Thinkspace Projects (Los Angeles)

On view July 18 through September 20, 2020 at:
MOAH Cedar
44857 Cedar Avenue
Lancaster, California 93534

Tour Created by Birdman

Video Tour of Spenser Little’s ‘Illumination Devices’ at MOAH Cedar this Summer

Illumination Devices

Presented in collaboration with Thinkspace Projects (Los Angeles)

On view July 18 through September 20, 2020 at:
MOAH Cedar
44857 Cedar Avenue
Lancaster, California 93534

Artist Statement Regarding Illumination Devices:

“To me, all art is a form of illumination devices. For this exhibition, I have built a new series of mixed-media kinetic lamps. The lamps serve as bright facades for inner, hidden chambers. Looking through their constantly closing and opening doors, viewers are offered a peek at what makes them tick. Like the different layers we develop throughout our lives, we only allow certain people to see our most inner workings, while the majority are only able to see our polished exteriors. The lamp building process begins with the wood carving of the central character’s head. I then weld a round bar frame for the outline of the body. I don’t put much forethought into where the design will go, aesthetic or engineering wise, which allows me to adapt any spontaneous idea during the build. Once I have the legs and body welded out and sized to the wooden head, I begin to problem shoot the kinetic portion of the build. Which is the unnatural part for my purely sculptor’s brain. Once all of the kinetic components are complete, I clean and bake the paper skin on the lamp, allowing them to come to life.”

Spenser Little is a self-taught artist who has been bending wire and carving wood for almost 20 years, allowing his creativity to morph into images that range from simple wordplay to complex portraits. He has related his wire work to a mixture of playing chess and illustration, as the problem-solving component of the work is what continues to inspire himself to create larger and more complex pieces. Some works contain moving components and multiple wires, but mostly the pieces are formed from one continuous piece of wire that is bent and molded to Little’s will. He has left the wire sculptures all over the world, in locations that range from the Eiffel Tower to the bottom of caves, their location selected with little discernment, only for the piece to be finally realized at the moment that someone discovers the surprise piece of art.

Video and Photos by Birdman Photos