Galia Linn's sculptures aren't just about what's physically there—they're about the way you look at them.
In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. From yogis, to psychics, to witches, City of the Seekers examines how creative freedom enables LA-based artists to make spiritual work as part of their practices.
When glancing at images of objects by sculptor and site-specific installation artist Galia Linn, even the most arts-savvy might be quick to dismiss them as conceptual, deconstructivist relics of a centuries-old arts tradition. But if we take a moment to really look at the sculptures themselves and their relationship to their environment, we can see that these objects are actually about the way we're looking at them.
As a philosophy, "phenomenology" refers to an object outside the physical perception that the senses and mind notice. It's also about the experience that comes from interacting with an object, and deeply admiring what gives it form and meaning. In this way, Linn's art is more about the moment of understanding that arises after looking beyond an object's aesthetics to grasp its core, and it's that moment of recognition that finally gives the object its meaning.
"There is a first-person body experience that occurs while interacting with an object," Linn explains. "It happens before thought, before feeling. It exists in the knowing part of your existence that requires no explanation."
Originally from Israel, Linn fled her country during the Gulf War when bombs drowned out the sound of her husband's jazz band. Soon, the couple found themselves living in Southern California, sharing a three-bedroom house in Venice with 12 other adults, two kids, and their pets. That experience comes through in Linn's art, too.
Not only does Linn's work embody the power of nature in the face of the human gaze (and that fleeting, thereafter unobtainable moment of grasping an object's essence), but it's about the artist's own early childhood experiences in Israel surrounded by relics of antiquity. Now that she's in LA, though, her environment shapes her work in another way. She says, "Living in Los Angeles gives me freedom through distance, and perspective through separation."
While Linn's experiences inform her art, she maintains that when it comes to her creative process, "there is no room for intent," only a nearly obsessive attitude to work. As with many visual artists, Linn toils to the point of exhaustion and beyond coherent thought so that her body becomes the vehicle for her unconscious to manifest itself physically.
The result is a range of curious objects with indefinable form and texture that simultaneously attract and challenge the would-be viewer's gaze. Linn's Single Horn Guardians look like they've been held together and torn apart for centuries, resembling vertical, shaft-like ancient termite mounds with carefully placed timeworn fissures and deliberate discolorations. The strange figures are grouped together as a gang of ungainly sculptures daring you to look at them, and only when you look closely do you truly see the magic unfold.
"I manipulate sculptures to the edge of their endurance; pushing and pulling between the memories emerging from the stones that survived to the artist’s hand," Linn says. "The outgrowth becomes evidence of time and action."
Some of Linn's objects take the form of gigantic, unidentifiable fossils while others such as the black mountain clay Single Horn Guardians resemble melted Hershey kisses covered in blood, cast and settled like cement, with intestine-like tentacles reaching beyond the space. There is a palpable balance that comes from the tension between private and public space, often resulting in making the two indistinguishable from one another. But in the end, Linn's art is not only challenging our own perceptions, but hers as well.
"My journey is to break the stone wall of my own perception, what I appear to be and what I know I am," she says. "My art reverberates that wall; a constant battle between the effort to drill a passage and the acceptance of what is on the other side."
Big Mama III and Big Mama IV, 2015 (Black mountain clay, gunmetal, and clear and white glazed stoneware, 45" x 36" x 39" each)
Linn will be featured in a duo Exhibition at MaRS Gallery and a group exhibition at 101 Exhibit in Los Angeles in July. Athenaeum will present Linn’s first solo exhibition in La Jolla, California in September. See more of Linn's work here.