Sacramento Art History Consortium’s Featured Artist: Lala Ortiz

by Bree Garcia

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LO:  I was born and raised in San Francisco, California. I feel fortunate to have grown up in an environment surrounded by so many interesting people and places. The early exposure to so many limitless possibilities is part of what has given me the open outlook on life and all that it has to offer. Pure magic!

As a child I loved nothing more than to run off into a quiet corner by myself and make things. I used to hide in the closet after bed time to read and secretly work on my projects, usually toys, dolls, and puppets. Anything with moving parts were and still are, fascinating favorites!

Art has the ability to transport me completely away from reality. Away from my regular, everyday life of alarm clocks, deadlines, and dirty dishes! Once I go off into my studio, “my quiet little corner,” all of the world just melts away. It is just peaceful and everything is right in my own little world! I still prefer to work in the middle of the night. The dark side of midnight is when my creative juices begin to flow, self doubt and anxiety fade away. Without this escape I would just go nuts! Anyway, this creative outlet is what makes my day feel productive and that my life is worth living. It is the difference for me between earning a living and making a life. I know this sounds extreme but, this is my reality. Without it I would quickly perish.

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SAHC: Can you give us a brief description of your creative process? What is your preferred medium and style?

My preferred medium is polymer. I love it for the diversity and the possibilities that it offers. There is no other medium that I know of that can mimic so many other materials. I use polymer to sculpt my figures and masks, make beads, vessels, and illustrations.

My process and style can change depending on the project at hand but, most projects include at least some polymer and the process begins with conditioning my clay and mixing colors. I am very drawn to color and texture so my beads, jewelry, vessels and other non-figurative work tends to be very driven by the seasons and the colors and textures in my surroundings. Flowers, leaves, flora and fauna are naturally a reoccurring theme since I spend so much time in my gardens and at the local lakes, rivers and marshlands.

With my figurative work my process is completely intuitive. I condition the clay, build a wire armature, and begin to sculpt with no preconceived notion of “who” or “what” the sculpture will grow up to be. My characters have three main styles Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead, indigenous/tribal (mostly of make believe tribes that I imagine to be The Human Tribe that we are all a part of. Many of the elements in this series are inspired by National Geographic and being surrounded by people of diverse cultures my whole life.)

Also, I do have a strong pull into the realm of fantasy and faerie. The Mystical Beings speak to me as I work (no I don’t hear voices! I’m not that crazy yet!). They tell me who they are and what they are. They tell me what they need to be able to cross over into our realm. As I work they give me their stories, sometimes with great urgency and other times with trepidation. It all depends on how they feel about coming into our world.

Here is a really long blog post of my work in progress I took step out photos and added a narrative of one of my garden gnomes and how he came to be, start to finish.

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SAHC: As a Sacramento artist what responsibilities do you believe that you have to the local and the global community?

LO: Mainly, to keep creating and continue putting it out there. Also, as an artist with a focus on the fantasy realm, which is highly misunderstood, and also polymer, a medium that is equally misunderstood, it is my responsibility and my duty to educate the viewers and the community on both of these subjects. Both my preferred medium, polymer, and my chosen subjects, fantasy figures, are regularly disregarded as art. Both are actually somewhat controversial in the art community. “The mediums that I use are too basic, dolls are not art they are toys, and polymer is not a durable art medium it’s a children’s product, like Playdoh.” These are some of the comments that I have heard.

Art is not art because of what it is made of or the subject matter but because of the heart spirit and passion behind it.” I am more thrilled at seeing honest art, created from simple, basic materials that are transformed than by fancy mediums and glossy finishes that are highly promoted and sold as high priced, fine art. Furthermore, what could be more basic than a wood frame covered in cotton fabric and paint? Simple materials can make great art! What makes a doll a toy? What makes a sculpture a doll? At what point can a doll be considered art? And who gets to be the judge of that? Also, there are many brands and grades of polymer. Some are marketed as children’s craft products. Just the same as paints come in several grades from children’s craft products to artist grade, polymer also comes in made different formulas, brands and grades. I only use the highest quality artist grade formulas in my work.

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SAHC: What advice do you have for emerging artists, or those pursuing a career in the arts?

LO: Get into the studio or wherever it is that you create and make art! Make good art, make bad art, make happy art, sad art, angry art, art with a message, art with a voice and a dream. Do not allow the creativity sucking leaches to drain you of your precious inspiration! Do not listen to “the voices of reason” that tell you to take some other path. The right path for them may not be right for you. Create the work that only you can create. Continue to hone your skills and sharpen your techniques. Feed your passion! Hang tough!

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SAHC:  Who are some of your favorite Sacramento Artists, and why?

LO: This is a tough one. I am really isolated and don’t know that many other artists. If I have to choose favorites and they have to be local, I can give two names.

Kanika Marshall, a potter and a sculptor who works in glorious, bold colors, and creates vessels and sculptures that are inspired by her African ancestry and her own creative spiritual force. Her work is both whimsical and other worldly. Her process like mine is intuitive. She takes a hunk of clay and allows the work to evolve as her hands manipulate.

Another favorite is Shane Grammar, themed environments, stage sets, murals, and illustrations. The enormous scale of his work thrills me! The variety of techniques and materials that he works in are fascinating! He is also a very personable guy and that makes his work so much more impressive. The themed environments are like real size fantasies to me. What I like best about Disneyland and other amusement parks are the themed rides. I love the fantasy environments! I love being transported immediately into another realm. It’s exciting to me! I let the magic take me away!

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SAHC: Where are some of your favorite Art/ Art History resources found?

LO: I scour the internet for information costume design, cultural lifestyles, and folklore are some of my most common searches. I also enjoy traveling and experiencing different foods and cultures first hand. Restaurants can even offer rich cultural experiences and resources. I believe that having a variety of life experiences and cultural experiences adds a great deal of depth to my work.

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SAHC: Is there anything else about the arts here in Sacramento that you would like share with our readers?

LO:  I am still trying to work my way in and find my way around the Sacramento Art Scene.

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SAHC: Where can your work be viewed, or found online?

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