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16_daneyal Lisa_ross_2 Blac_garden_path Black_garde_blue_crib Black_garde_tandem Black_garde_an_offering Black_garde_an_single_twig Burial_cribs 20111021090817-lr_afternightwb
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
Unrevealed, Site 3, (Shrine), Lisa RossLisa Ross, Unrevealed, Site 3, (Shrine),
© Lisa Ross
Unrevealed, Site 1 (Fertility), Lisa RossLisa Ross, Unrevealed, Site 1 (Fertility),
2002-08, Oil pigment on rag paper
Black Garden (Path), Lisa RossLisa Ross, Black Garden (Path),
2002-08, Oil pigment on rag paper
Black Garden (Blue Crib), Lisa RossLisa Ross, Black Garden (Blue Crib),
2002-08, Oil pigment on rag paper
Black Garden (Tandem), Lisa RossLisa Ross, Black Garden (Tandem),
2002-08, Oil pigment on rag paper
Black Garden (An Offering), Lisa RossLisa Ross, Black Garden (An Offering),
2002-08, Oil pigment on rag paper
Black Garden (Single Twig), Lisa RossLisa Ross, Black Garden (Single Twig),
2002-08, Oil pigment on rag paper
Burial Cribs, Lisa RossLisa Ross, Burial Cribs,
2002-08, Oil pigment on rag paper
After Night, Lisa RossLisa Ross, After Night,
2011, Archival pigment print on cotton paper, 40" x 60"
 Black Garden (An Offering), Lisa RossLisa Ross, Black Garden (An Offering),
2009, archival pigment print on cotton paper
© Courtesy of the artist & Rubin Museum of Art
Using a visual medium to record something as intangible as faith, as subjective as spirituality, may seem like a paradox; however, it is a challenge that has allowed me to investigate boundaries of genre. By focusing primarily on the sites themselves - their delicate structures, ephemeral materials, and organic connection to the desert landscape - I hope to reveal elements of transcendence and de...[more]

Interview with Lisa Ross

New York , May 2009 - Artslant's New York editor, Trong Gia Nguyen, talked with Lisa Ross, about her travel to China and her new work.  Ross' solo exhibition, Unrevealed, is on view at Daneyal Mahmood Gallery (April 16 - June 13, 2009).

Trong Gia Nguyen: How did you come upon Xinjiang Uyghur?

Lisa Ross: I had been interested in the idea of the walk into the desert and the desert as a site for visionaries. A place that priests and monks had gone for centuries in order to attain visions, seek answers. When I went to China I read about the Taklamakan. I read about ancient city ruins in the desert landscape and so I bought a ticket for a 4 day sleeper train, hard sleeper and went out to Xinjiang.

TGN: Did you know anything about the religious practices of the region before arriving there?

LR: I knew the Uyghurs were Muslim but I did not know anything about the form of Islam that is unique to this region.

TGN: I was reading in an autobiography of Genghis Khan that Mongols believed their spirits were channeled through flags tied around their "warrior's spears" after they died. Is there any of this belief in the tombs that you are photographing, since there are some similarities?

LR: It is believed that evil spirits are caught in the flags and when the winds come they blow the flags and thus the evil spirits away. Regarding your comment of the Mongols- they reigned in various parts of this region throughout history so you can find expressions of Mongolian Shamanism in the mazar (holy sites)

TGN: I think the Black Garden images of the cribs are fascinating. It is literally from the "cradle to the grave" and seems very appropriate. Do you think of the concept and aesthetics of memorials at all? For instance, do our generic tombstones and the way they look (in comparison to Black Garden) feel too symbolically removed from mortality?

LR: Definitely. That is one of the ideas that drew me to markers of individuals who were not necessarily Saints but wanted to be buried close to a Saint. The markers felt like portraits to me and a reflection of the people who made them. They are very personal. You can feel the hand of the maker. The tombstone is cold and generic. In these markers people take the time to sew, to return and add and fix and tie, so love is expressed in a way that is very tangible and visual. As an aesthetic person, as an artist, this is very exciting.

TGN: The idea of transcendence is important in your photographs.  Even Buddhists, who strive for total removal of desire for anything and everything, want transcendence. How do you feel about impermanence and finality? Can one ever feel comfortable with such?

LR: I think that I don't have answers and I am okay with that. We can't know about finality, so I am not obsessed with it. Transcendence I love because it's a state we can experience. We can experience it running, or meditating or making art. When I am really in a state of creating it is a transcendent state, in my opinion. Impermanence I can accept. When it comes to people we love it doesn't feel comfortable or good - we want to hold onto them - but letting go, although painful, can be equally as gratifying on some level.

TGN: Have you finished your walk through the desert? What next?

LR: I can't say I'm finished. I am not sure what is in store. In a more literal sense I'd like to publish a monograph of this work as it is quite extensive and wants to be held, preserved and shared. There is also a body of work within this work that I have not had a chance to spend time with yet.  I also dream of collaborating. Is it possible to take a walk in the desert with someone? I never dreamt I would make this work so now I know to just show up for the process and stay open for the thing, the miracle, to happen.

Artslant would like to thank Lisa Ross and Daneyal Mahmood Gallery for their assistance in making this interview possible.

-- Trong Gia Nguyen



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