Candice Lin (photo by Georgia Arnold)

Welcome to the 30th installment of Meet LA’s Art Community. Check out our past interviews here.

This week I interview the artist Candice Lin, whose multimedia installations, drawings, and videos often draw on living materials and processes like mold, mushrooms, bacteria, fermentation, and stains. In particular, Lin is interested in materials (including insects and plants) that are wrapped up in histories of colonialism, slavery, and migration. As she shares in the interview below, she likes to keep “multiple jars of things always fermenting or steeping,” watching them evolve, “without any end goal or outcome in mind.”

Also in this interview, Lin offers a sneak peek of the artworks she will exhibit at the Gwangju Biennale (which was postponed from this year to the next) and in her first museum solo show at the Walker Art Center.

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Candice Lin, “System for a Stain” (2016), commissioned by Gasworks, installation view, A materialist history of contagion, Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity, Alberta, Canada, 2019 (photo by Jessica Wittman, courtesy the artist)

Where were you born? 

I was born in Concord, Massachusetts but I moved after I was a year old to Portland, Oregon, where I grew up.

How long have you been living in Los Angeles? 

I’ve been living in Los Angeles since 2005.

What’s your first memory of seeing art? 

I grew up without much exposure to art beyond a class field trip or two to the local Portland Art Museum. I remember being very drawn to illustrations in books, in particular the images of old engravings that were printed in our World Book Encyclopedia set.

Do you like to photograph the art you see? If so, what device do you use to photograph? 

No, I’m not on social media (which seems to be a main motivator for people to photograph things), and I don’t really photograph anything or anyone except my cat Roger when the feeling of love overtakes me and the act of photographing him repetitively (bad photos, all similar) is somehow an impulse to express this boundless love in a containable form. Sometimes I take notes on artists or artworks I want to remember and will take a picture of the wall label to help me remember.

What was your favorite exhibition in Los Angeles this year? 

Well, this year has certainly been a strange year, to put it in an understatement, and the seeing of art in person was very much curtailed between March and late summer in Los Angeles. Right before lock down, I saw and loved Todd Gray’s show Euclidean Gris Gris at the Pomona Art Museum and was sad it closed early in March due to COVID-19, as I wanted to go back and spend more time with it. And then I didn’t see any art for months, but I just visited Commonwealth and Council which has two solo shows of Jen Smith and Eddie Aparicio. I love the way Jen Smith is always thinking through the future circulation and life of her textile and craft-based works, and was new to Eddie Aparicio’s work, which were these hauntingly beautiful rubber skins of graffiti-marked trees adorned with dangling bits of broken, colored glass shards and glazed ceramics.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

As a roundabout answer to this question, I read Lisa Lowe’s The Intimacies of Four Continents in 2015 when it came out and it shaped the 2016 installation I made at Gasworks, “A System for a Stain,” and made me realize that the slowly growing stain itself was enough in itself. I’ve been recently reading her older book, Immigrant Acts, as I was researching ideas of citizenship, histories of Asian immigration, and the racialization of language around disease, purity, and contamination. She never fails to give me a deep-seated feeling of elation when I read her words — the breadth of her vision and the intricacy with which she ties together disparate disciplines and histories while opening up avenues of thought for my artistic ideas. I feel so indebted to the generosity and expansiveness of her writing and scholarship.

Do you prefer to see art alone or with friends? 


What are you currently working on? 

I’m currently working on several large-scale textile works: a woven tapestry curtain for the Gwangju Biennale that is patterned with rare animals that only exist in the DMZ. And I’m working on an indigo-dyed cotton tent that is held up by figurative demon/animal ceramic pillars that have an herbal steam emitting from their mouths and orifices. The indigo installation is for an exhibition opening next summer at the Walker Art Center and Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for Visual Arts. And I’ve also been in quarantine-mode, making a lot of drawings and paintings of my beloved, Roger.

What is one accomplishment that you are particularly proud of? 

As a teacher and someone who sometimes gives public lectures, I’ve had to overcome my fear of speaking to large groups, which used to make me so nervous and afraid.

Where do you turn to for inspiration for your projects? 

I am always experimenting with materials in a tactile, embodied way in the studio or even in my kitchen and domestic life. I have multiple jars of things always fermenting or steeping, and I like trying new materials and processes without any end goal or outcome in mind. I’m inspired by the natural world often — plants and fungi and colorful molds that grow in my home and the colors and hands-on feeling of earth and clay. Lately I’ve been fermenting clay and experimenting with dyeing with it in a mordant-based process along with the indigo dyeing I’ve been doing with a rice-paste resist. I find the way properties of different materials interact to be endlessly fascinating in a way that always leads to further experiments.

Elisa Wouk Almino is a senior editor at Hyperallergic. She is based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.