“The stories of objects and surfaces are the stories of people, time, and history”: artist and conservator Lisa DiClerico, reflecting on her paintings of New York
When Lisa DiClerico was growing up in New York City in the 1980s and ’90s, she spent her days gazing at old family photos and artworks. Italian American culture, that was her thing — to ponder, to find herself through, to process what was going on in her life. Her mom thought it curious, seeing as daily family life had centered around their Italian roots for so many generations that it was just, well, regular life. But, as pictures often do, they jolted Lisa into sensing she was part of a bigger human story.
The theme of continuity would come to define her career. She went on to earn a BFA in Restoration at The Fashion Institute of Technology, where “waves and waves” of new information came her way, as that time in life should be. She saw how “objects and surfaces are the stories of people, time, and history.” And in those stories, and in objects particularly, she found the collision of cultures. “Now we’re so used to mash-ups of culture, but in the 18th century, it’s fascinating to see,” she says. Everything clicked for her, as this narrative of history, people, and crafts all came together. She was (still is) enamored. Not that Lisa DiClerico lives in rewind. She’s digging into the intersection between culture and society, and she’s doing something new with it. She’s cooking up paint from scratch in No. 6 clogs, like some kind of a stylish sage.
In her studio, she takes us on a thorough tour of her materials and works; by the end of this interview, my head will explode from all her mad scientist knowledge, and we will finish talking while she puts me back together with rabbit skin glue. Please don’t think my eyes glazed over or that she’s full of artspeak because she’s anything but. Lisa’s sincerity and eagerness to engage, to connect, are completely charming.I pull out my mini tape recorder at a table stacked with watercolors, and José Alvarado, the photographer with us today, slides it out of frame. She speaks thoughtfully (very thoughtfully) about what she wants to say through her art (care of quality, of craftsmanship, a connection to the past) and about her experiments with thousand-year-old gesso recipes.
We spend the afternoon talking about her mixed media panels, her ode to New York. By the time you see these works, the city details they depict will have long vanished. This city, like every other, is in this state of constant flux, forever shape-shifting in the hands of builders, dwellers, and with the passage of time.
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