This month we're talking about finding focusstaying motivated, and building confidence so that your creative work stays at the forefront of your mind and at the top of your priority list, and wanted to introduce you to Katerina Lanfranco, an inspiring artist who embodies this topic in her daily interdisciplinary practice. 

Below a Sea of Stars, installation view

Below a Sea of Stars, installation view

Katerina Lanfranco is a Brooklyn-based artist whose body of work includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, and mixed media installations. She earned her BA from UC Santa Cruz and her MFA from Hunter College, City University of New York. Her work is represented by the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, and is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) in Berlin, and the Corning Museum of Glass. She teaches studio art at the MOMA, among other institutions for higher learning throughout New York. Lanfranco is the founder and director of Rhombus Space, an exhibition space in Brooklyn where she curates concept-driven group and solo shows. She is also Chief Curator at Brooklyn’s Trestle Gallery.

Can you describe your path as an artist – from where and when you began, until now?

Katerina in her studio

Katerina in her studio

I was very artistic as a child, though I didn't think of myself as such. I really began my formal path as an artist when I decided to study Studio Art, along with an independent major entitled “Visual Theory and Museum Studies” at the University of California at Santa Cruz for my undergrad. Prior to that, I was pretty invested in playing the cello (10 years), and was interested in areas of physics and the arts within a social context. In high school, I wrote a long research paper on Chaos Theory, and competed in regional physics competitions. My early interests in music and science still impact and inform my artwork today. I describe my work as a combination of science, art, and fantasy. 

What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

My professional life is pretty multifaceted. I balance my own studio practice with curatorial work and teaching. I try to maintain a type of fluidity in my daily professional life, while staying very much in touch with my authentic creative self and ideas with a clear course and direction. It’s an amalgam of intuition, pragmatism, and hard work. I feel lucky that as an artist there is no retirement age, since there is still so much I want to contribute through my work. In a typical week I teach 3 days, and try to be in studio the other days. Periodically I also teach at the Museum of Modern Art; the American Folk Art Museum; and at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Depending on the exhibition schedule at Trestle Gallery, where I am the Chief Curator, I may also be installing exhibitions before a show opens. My studio is sort of a haven. I've gotten to a point where I can't run everything myself, but my experience of doing so has been extremely useful in understanding all of the aspects of a professional artist's life and the logistics of running an art gallery. I have two interns this year, and I work with assistants at the gallery. I love organizing, and I find delegating work to be a more socially engaged form of organizing.

Tomorrow Dreams of Neon, site specific painting at Andrew Edlin Gallery, NYC

Tomorrow Dreams of Neon, site specific painting at Andrew Edlin Gallery, NYC

What is a major goal you have set for yourself in the past year that you accomplished? How did you do it?

A major goal this past year was to get a new studio. I journaled about it, daydreamed about it, and discussed it often with my studio manager. When I really commit to something, people have described me as “having a bee in my bonnet". I find that this type of tenacity is essential though, since my life requires perpetual multitasking, and it enables me to focus very clearly on whatever the task is at hand so that I can be totally present and engaged.

I started doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the fall, in part for physical exercise to balance out those sedentary studio days, but also to be present in myself - body and mind. Generally my approach to a project is to research first, set achievable expectations, and then execute those goals. I'm a big fan of visualization as well. If I can see it in my mind, then I am pretty sure I can manifest it in reality - or at I least I give it a wholehearted try!

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from managing all your projects?

I have learned so many valuable lessons:
To know my limits by testing them.
To be fearless.
To say yes more often than no.
To be open to intuitive ideas.
To embrace seriousness and playfulness simultaneously.

What advice do you often find yourself giving to the artists that you work with?

Don't be so hard on yourself. Self-criticism can be so harmful and unproductive.

Draw it out. It’s the first step to bring a visual idea into being.

Where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

I love spontaneous day trips and visiting other people's studios. Traveling reminds me that there are so many other realities that exist. Travel also helps put things into perspective and opens up my understanding of the world. And of course I find inspiration in museums – both the art and non-art kinds. I also love being immersed in the natural world, but I think anyone could guess this from looking at my art.

Can you tell us about an upcoming project?

Coming up, Rhia Hurt and I are co-curating an exhibition at Trestle Gallery entitled “Laughing Out Loud” feature work by Nadine Beauharnois, Todd Bienvenu, Caroline Chandler, Ari Eshoo, Seth Kaufman, Christina Kelly, Jen Nista, Archie Rand, Emilie Selden, Michael Scoggins, Petra Valentova, Daniel Wiener, and Crys Yin.

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