Richard A. Lou presents lecture about work, artists as ‘citizen diplomats’

March 8th, 2013 Comments Off on Richard A. Lou presents lecture about work, artists as ‘citizen diplomats’

Richard A. Lou presented a lecture on March 7 before the reception for his Stories on My Back exhibition.

Lou discussed themes that are found in his work, such as questioning his identity and questioning photographs’ claim to reality through storytelling. He also discussed the idea of collaboration and how artists often serve as “citizen diplomats.”

Lou, who is half Chinese and half Mexican, discussed how he questioned his identity growing up and how he would cross the border from Mexico to the United States for school every day with his father from age six until age nine.

Many of Lou’s works, including his current exhibit at MSU, are site-specific. “The Border Door – 1988” is work that Lou did along the U.S./Mexican border. For the work, the artist created a door and handed out keys for people to use his border door.

Another series, “Border Sutures,” involved a group of artists crossing the border in various locations and installing steel “staples” to ‘put the nations back together.’

For “Headlines – 1992,” Lou shaved his head once a month and invited different artists of color to create text or drawings on his head. The images would last 7-10 days, thanks to Lou’s sleeping on his stomach and wearing a bathing cap for showers. The artist said he wanted to “not be able to divorce myself from my work,” and he definitely got his wish. The artwork on his head was with him at the grocery store, when he picked his children up from school and wherever he went. Lou said people often stereotyped him and were scared of him until they started a conversation and learned about his project. The artist plans to start this project again soon for the 21st anniversary.

Lou wrapped up the lecture by again referring to the idea of artists as “citizen diplomats.” He said he enjoys what he does because his work is important to his conscience and represents issues that are important to him.

Watch some video from the lecture:
Video 1 (Lou discusses some of his early border projects.)
Video 2 (Lou discusses his “Headlines” project, where he invited artists to create works of art on his head.)
Video 3 (Lou discusses how he used humor for a project that served as a way to discuss who has the power to define culture.)

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