Lisa Kairos


artist’s statement

I was four. We walked off a hot San Jose city street, down the side of a muddy embankment, to sit with our feet in the cold, chattering water of Steven’s Creek. Above was muggy and hot, with the acrid smell of car exhaust in the air, but below it smelled of plants and earth, and I felt like I had slipped into another, secret place, just beneath the urban veneer. As an artist, this contrast between two adjacent worlds continues to captivate me. As I engage with a landscape, I look for that moment of slippage and surprise–the glitch of beauty in an unexpected place.

My art process combines site-specific exploration with a studio practice. I choose sites that, like the creek, hold the tension between the natural and human elements of landscape, usually the remainders and margins of urban space, or land that has been shaped by use and infrastructure. Spending time in a place allows an emotional and intuitive reading of the landscape that fortifies my visual memory; I want the work to be as much about what a place feels like as what it looks like. In the studio, I excavate the relationship between the illusion of depth and the limitations of the picture plane, suggesting structures and boundaries, movement and porosity. Decentralized imagery floats, upending orientation. I work in many layers, interrupting atmospheric painterly spaces with flat geometry and line, a shift in perspective or scale, or by cutting through the picture plane. I aim to see beneath the obvious and synthesize opposites, both in subject and form.